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January 27. 2014 10:00PM

National Park Service gives big boost to Saint-Gaudens historic site in Cornish


A bust of Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by shrubs, is a replica from "Standing Lincoln," the statue that brought Saint-Gaudens to New Hampshire in search of "Lincoln shaped men." (MELANIE PLENDA PHOTO)

CORNISH — The National Park Service has made a decision regarding the future of the Blow-Me-Down Farm at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, giving the historic site seven years to pursue grants and partnerships to renovate and add programming as an expansion of Saint-Gaudens.

The decision concludes the park’s environmental assessment planning process for the 42.6 acres property with nine historic structures abutting the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.

Blow-Me-Down Farm was purchased for the park in 2010 by its non-profit partner, the Saint-Gaudens Memorial.

New York attorney and friend to sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Charles Beaman bought Blow-Me-Down Farm in the early 1800s, said Rick Kendall, superintendent of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.

“Beaman lived in New York City for many years and then bought Blow-Me-Down Farm in the early 1800s and started turning it into a gentleman’s farm,” Kendall said.

Beaman was instrumental in encouraging Saint-Gaudens to move to Cornish in 1885, which brought many other artists to the area leading to the development of the Cornish Colony of artists. Blow-Me-Down Farm was one of many social hubs and gathering places for the Colony members.

Fame first disrupted Saint-Gaudens creative life. In 1881 Saint-Gaudens, his first big commission, a sculpture of Civil War hero Admiral David G. Farragut was unveiled in New York City’s Madison Square Park and his career took off.

“It really changed the way a lot of people were seeing sculptures in America,” Kendall said.

The motion and movement that Saint-Gaudens depicted in the Farragut was nothing Americans had ever seen before in a sculpture.

“That really took the art world by storm,” Kendall said.

Knowing that Saint-Gaudens was getting pestered by visitors — because of his new found fame — while trying to work in his New York studio, Beaman enticed Saint-Gaudens to come up to Cornish to work on his latest commission, a sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln, by telling him, “New Hampshire has many Lincoln-shaped men.”

It worked and Saint-Gaudens began leasing a property from Beaman that the sculptor eventually purchased and that is today the Saint-Gaudens Historic Site.

The recent decision of the National Park Service allows for two phases.

Phase one, allows the park to proactively seek grants and cost-share opportunities by strengthening existing partnerships and developing new partnerships in the undertaking of the preservation and rehabilitation or restoration of the Farm’s historic structures.

The park may also pursue leasing or cooperative agreement opportunities to the Farm that coincide with Saint-Gaudens mission, such as art, history, and natural resource education programs, artist-in-residence programs, museums, or other programs which provide educational opportunities in the fields of art, art history, historic preservation, public lands management, or natural resources.

Phase two would enact a more aggressive strategy to preserve the property’s structures if the efforts of phase one fail. It includes finding suitable occupants to assist in stabilizing and or rehabilitating the Farm’s structures.

The environmental assessment for the Blow-Me-Down Farm Site Management Plan is available for public review at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/saga. A printed copy will also be available for review at the park visitor center.

mpierce@newstote.com


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