Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park | ASPET HOUSE TOUR

West side of Aspet, home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens

West side of Aspet, home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens

HOUSE TOUR

Visitors to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park are welcome to tour sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ house, Aspet, on their own from Memorial Day weekend until October 31st between the hours of 10 AM and 11:45 AM, then again from 1 PM to 4 PM (the house is closed during lunchtime). Rangers are on duty to answer any questions. Only twelve guests can be inside the house at one time, so on a busy day you may have to wait for somebody to leave. Only three rooms on the first floor are open to the public, so most people are in and out in about fifteen minutes. (Note: the house is not wheelchair accessible.)

All of the furnishings inside Aspet belonged to the Saint-Gaudens Family. When Augustus died of cancer in 1907, his wife, Augusta, continued to use the house as a summer residence. Eventually she and her son, Homer, along with some close friends, formed the Saint-Gaudens Memorial, a foundation to preserve the house and Saint-Gaudens’ artworks. After Augusta died in 1926, the house was left exactly as it was and run as a nonprofit museum. This is why all of the furniture and other decorative items are original to the house.

There are no artworks of Saint-Gaudens on display in the house, but there are plenty of artworks by other artists. For example, in the dining room is a portrait of Augusta and Homer. This was done by John Singer Sargent in 1890 in exchange for Saint-Gaudens doing a bas-relief portrait of his sister, Violet (the original is on display in the New Gallery). I’m not sure if the painting is the original or a reproduction, for while it did hang in the room until 1907, Homer later sold it to the Carnegie Museum of Art in 1932. He was the director of the Department of Fine Arts at the museum from 1922 until 1950.

Dining Room of Aspet

Dining Room of Aspet

The kitchen is another room that is open to the public.

Kitchen at Aspet

Kitchen at Aspet

The Saint-Gaudenses remodeled some of the interior, most notably changing two smaller rooms on the first floor into one, large living room.

Living room

Living room

Living room

Living room

The exterior of the house remains largely as it was in 1885 except for the porches that adorn three sides; these were all built by the Saint Gaudenses.

Porch at Aspet

Porch at Aspet

View of the formal flower garden from the west side porch

View of the formal flower garden from the west side porch

Augustus also planted a honey locust tree near the front porch that has since grown so big that its roots damaged the steps, requiring repairs that were made in 2015. This is the largest honey locust tree in the state of New Hampshire.

Honey locust grows near the front door of Aspet

Honey locust grows near the front door of Aspet

When done inside the house, be sure to visit the flower garden. This was designed by Saint-Gaudens, and Augusta picked the flowers that would be grown. Today the gardens are maintained by a full-time gardener and volunteers who stop by twice a week.

Back of Aspet where the formal gardens are located

Back of Aspet where the formal gardens are located

Formal flower garden at Aspet

Formal flower garden at Aspet

HOUSE HISTORY

The house now known as Aspet was originally built in 1817 as a country inn by the Huggins Brothers. They believed that the road running through the area was going to be the next major thoroughfare across New Hampshire, but this never came to pass. The house changed hands a number of times over the next few years, and even fell into disrepair until Charles Beaman, who lived at the adjacent Blow-Me-Down Farm, purchased it in 1884 from William Mercer (the Mercer Family was a major land holder in Cornish).

Charles Beaman was the man who brought Augustus Saint-Gaudens to Cornish and helped establish the Cornish Artist Colony. As a lover of art, he felt that if he could get his friend to start coming to Cornish for the summers that other artists would soon follow. He rented Aspet to Saint-Gaudens each summer starting in 1885 and continued doing so until the famed sculptor purchased the property in 1891. Beaman also owned much of the surrounding land and rented it to artists as the Cornish Colony grew. At the peak of its popularity, approximately two hundred artists lived in Cornish and other nearby towns.

Having lived in New York City for most of his life, Saint-Gaudens did not initially care for country living, but at the urging of Augusta, he decided to give it a go and found that he was able to get a lot of work done. He converted a barn into his studio, and later when he owned the property, he tore it down and built the Little Studio, which still stands today. His first project at Aspet was what would become his Standing Lincoln sculpture for Chicago’s Lincoln Park (there is also a casting of the Standing Lincoln on the grounds of Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park).

Beaman had originally offered to sell the house to Saint-Gaudens, but had no luck. However, by 1890 many of Saint-Gaudens’ friends had purchased houses in Cornish, and he expressed his interest to buy. Beaman, however, now played hardball and claimed the property was no longer for sale. When Saint-Gaudens threatened to quit renting and move elsewhere, the two struck a deal, and the house and 22 acres were sold for an undisclosed amount of money and Saint-Gaudens’ agreement to do a bronze, bas-relief portrait of Beaman.

Though now the owners, Augustus and Augusta continued to use the house only as a summer residence. It wasn’t until 1900 after they returned from living in Paris for the previous three years that they decided to make Aspet their full-time residence. Saint-Gaudens was diagnosed with cancer at this time, and it was simply too much trouble to travel back and forth between Cornish and New York City.

As mentioned earlier, after Augusta’s death the house and grounds were opened to the public and run as an art gallery and Saint-Gaudens museum. This continued for nearly 40 years until the Saint-Gaudens Memorial could no longer afford the upkeep. The organization donated the house and property to the National Park Service in 1965. The Saint-Gaudens Memorial still exists, and it sponsors many of the events at the park, including the summer concerts.

Back to the Top


With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on June 15, 2020
Share this article