Despite its relatively small size, Cornish, NH, is notable for having the most covered bridges in the state(4), including what was once the longest in the U.S. Also, it was home to a famous American sculptor who lived there and founded a noted artists colony. Today, his estate is the site of the state's only national park. One more thing, reclusive author J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) also lived in Cornish for about 30 years from the 1930s-1950s and had two homes there.)
All of this made Cornish a place to stop on our recent anniversary road trip. This post continues a previous road adventure post.
We drove across the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, the longest of those covered bridges, which spans the Connecticut River connecting Cornish NH, and Windsor, VT. At 449 feet, it is the longest two-span covered bridge in the world and the longest continually open bridge in NH
It was the longest U.S. covered bridge until 2008 when the Smolen-Gulf Bridge, which crosses the Ashtabula River in OH, beat it at 613 feet.
The lattice truss Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, built in 1866 at a $9,000 cost, operated as a toll bridge from 1866 to 1943 when it was bought by the state of NH and became toll-free. After a 1954 renovation, the bridge was damaged by flood water and ice in 1977 and repaired at a cost of $25,000. Closed to traffic in 1987 due to deterioration, it was reconstructed for over $4 million and reopened to traffic in late 1989. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
FYI, the other covered bridges in Cornish, NH, are the Blow-Me-Down Covered Bridge, Singleton Hill Covered Bridge, Blacksmith Shop Bridge (also known as the Kenyon Hill Bridge, foot traffic only). Maybe we will see these on a return trip.
Cornish, NH, is home to the only National Park in NH, Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, which is also the only park dedicated to an American sculptor in the entire park system.
The 190-acre park was Saint-Gaudens summer residence and later permanent home until his death and the center of the Cornish Art Colony in the late 19th century. The sculptor’s home, Aspet, and studios are open to the public seasonally, late May to the end of Oct. Due to current restrictions, the home is closed so we could only tour the exterior and grounds; there is an online virtual tour.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), a European-educated sculptor, is widely recognized as the foremost American sculptor of the late 19th century, noted for his oversize size memorial sculptures. The park contains full-size bronze casts of some of his most famous works.
Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of French and Irish parents who immigrated to NYC when he was an infant and where his father set up a shoe repair business. At age 13, he was apprenticed to a cameo cutter and took evening art classes at Cooper Union in NYC. When his apprenticeship ended at age 19, Saint-Gaudens went to Paris to study in the studio of a French sculptor becoming the first American accepted to the École des Beaux-Arts, the foremost training ground for artists and architects at the time. He left Paris in late 1870 and went to Rome to work on his first full-length statue, a marble sculpture of the fictional Ojibwe chief, Hiawatha, which is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
|Hiawatha by Augustus Saint-Gaudens Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC|
Living in NY in 1873, Saint-Gaudens met architect Stanford White before securing his first major commission for a monument to Civil War Admiral David Glasgow Farragut planned for Madison Square Park.
|Admiral David Farragut Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens|
The 10-foot tall Farragut monument was unveiled in NY in 1881 to popular acclaim. The work depicts Farragut standing in uniform with binoculars and sword on the deck of his ship. The statue rests on a granite pedestal designed by White featuring a bas-relief figure of a seated female on either side. Its success led to commissions for some 20 public monuments around the country.
|Aspet, home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Cornish, NH|
|Lincoln the Man by Augustus Saint-Gaudens|
Lincoln The Man or The Standing Lincoln is one of Saint-Gauden’s most famous works and has been called the most important sculpture of Lincoln from the 19th century. The 12-foot high statue in Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL, is atop a 6-foot base designed by Stanford White.
Saint-Gaudens found a model in Windsor, VT. A resident there, Langdon Morse, was tall like Lincoln, with similar features. Morse was a justice of the peace, a town council member, and Vermont legislator. Lincoln had been assassinated 5 years earlier and the face was done using a life mask made before his inauguration. Saint-Gaudens had Lincoln’s tailor make a duplicate of the president's suit, instructing Morse to walk everywhere in it, so it would look "lived in."
|The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens|
The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial is considered to be the greatest public U.S. monument according to the National Park Service website. The Shaw Memorial, a 14-foot by 11-foot, three-dimensional panel took 14 years (1884-1897) to complete and depicts Colonel Shaw and some of the African-American soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
|Detail of the Shaw Memorial|
Saint-Gaudens hired African American men to pose and modeled 40 different heads with a range of features, physiques, and ages. His attention to detail and accuracy extended to clothing and equipment. The regiment is shown marching with an angel overhead holding poppies, a symbol of deaths to come. It was unveiled in 1897 on Boston Common, MA, near where Colonel Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry marched to war in 1863. Shaw was just 25 years old when he took command of the 54th. He died a year later leading his unit in the assault on Confederate held Fort Wagner in Charleston, SC. The 1989 American historical war drama, Glory, tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts.
|The Adams Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens|
While working on the Shaw memorial, Saint-Gaudens created his most celebrated funerary monument, which he called The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding also known as the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
|Diana on the Tower, NYC|
Diana on the Tower, Saint-Gaudens created his only female nude sculpture in 1891. The statue in gilt sheet copper was to top the tower of NYC's Madison Square Garden II designed by architect Sanford White. The 18-foot tall, 1,800 lb. rotating weathervane featured a nude woman with bow and arrow balanced atop a ball. It was a landmark icon in its time as it sat atop what was then the tallest tower, over 300 feet, in Manhattan. It was the first statue lit at night with electricity, a new invention. There were two versions. The first didn't rotate because of its weight and was replaced by a lighter one
The statue remained until 1925 and was removed before the building was demolished. The second version has been in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1932.
In 1900, after being diagnosed with colon cancer, Saint-Gaudens settled year round in Cornish. He continued to work in his studio and produced many reliefs and public sculpture with the help of assistants.
Attracted by the area's natural beauty, his friends, including artists, sculptors, writers, and designers had built houses in the surrounding area and lived there either full-time or during the summer months. They formed a popular artists group, known as the Cornish Arts Colony, which flourished from about 1895 to 1918 and spread out into small towns around Cornish, NH, and Windsor, VT. Members included American novelist Winston Churchill (not the British statesman), editor Maxwell Perkins, sculptor Paul Manship, actress Ethel Barrymore, painters Maxfield and Stephen Parrish, landscape architect Ellen Shipman, conservationist Charles Benton, dancer Isadora Duncan, architect Charles A. Platt, painter and sculptor Frederic Remington.
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt asked Saint-Gaudens to design three new coins to be produced by the US Treasury: the one-cent coin and the 10 and 20 dollar gold pieces. This commission made him the first sculptor to design an American coin, which before had been done by employees working at the mint. The one-cent coin was eventually scrapped, but the $10 and $20 gold coins were produced and put into circulation for over 25 years.
|$20 gold coin in 1903 without In God We Trust|
The Saint-Gaudens $20 double eagle coin is considered to be the most beautiful U.S. coin ever minted. Released to the public, it wasn't in circulation long and provoked controversy for the omission of the In God We Trust motto. Early in the design process, the president and the sculptor had opted not to include this phrase for different reasons. Saint-Gaudens appreciated one less element in his design. Roosevelt, a deeply religious man, believed that inscribing the deity's name on coins which might be used for criminal purposes was akin to blasphemy.
|$10 gold Indian head eagle, circa 1903|
Ironically, Saint-Gaudens lost his battle against colon cancer at his home in Cornish in August 1907, before the $10 and $20 gold coins were released.
|$20 gold coin in 1911 with In God We Trust motto|
In 1908, In God We Trust was added following public complaints about the omission. No further design changes took place up through 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ended circulating gold coinage. Most double eagles were re-collected by the mint. Now, a Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coin is worth $4,000 or more.
After the sculptor's death, his wife and son summered at Aspet and, in 1919, established the Saint-Gaudens Memorial dedicated to preserving it as a historic site to protect and preserve the sculptor's works.
Saint-Gaudens was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1896. In 1920, he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. In 1940, the U.S. Post Office issued a series of 35 postage stamps. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was among those selected and his image appeared on a 3-cent stamp first issued in NY in September 1940.
During WW II, the Liberty ship SS Augustus Saint-Gaudens was built in Panama City, FL, and named in his honor. The ship was scrapped in Italy in 1967.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park, NH's only national park, also bears the distinction of being the least-visited U.S. National Park which is unfortunate as so many examples of America’s finest sculptor are on display in this one location.
On the other hand, that's hardly a deterrent, as it also makes this park less crowded. Since we missed seeing everything on this first visit, late on a hot afternoon, we will return before the park closes in late October. There's an admission fee for those over 15 years old, but the park is a federal fee area and America the Beautiful Annual, Senior, and Access passes are honored for no cost entry. (Thankfully, we both have lifetime senior parks passes.)
(By the way, our travel adventures haven't ended, yet. There's still more to come later.)