Two bills have been introduced proposing the redesignation of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire to the “Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts.” The companion bills were submitted simultaneously on May 12 by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH1).
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was born in Ireland, raised in New York City, and went on to become one of America’s greatest sculptors. He created some of the nation’s best-known public statues, including Standing Lincoln (1887) in Lincoln Park in Chicago, the Sherman Memorial (1903) in Central Park, N.Y.C., and the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (1897) on Boston Common. His sculptures are also housed in museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Saint-Gaudens is also known to numismatists as the designer and sculptor of two of America’s most iconic coins, the 1907-1933 Gold Eagle and Double Eagle. President Theodore Roosevelt hand-picked him to design these issues as part of an initiative to elevate the quality of United States coinage. Saint-Gaudens died shortly after submitting his designs, however, and never got to see the finished issues.
The identical bills (S. 2923 and H.R. 5206) are titled “The Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts Redesignation Act” and seek to re-conceive the site in accordance with its unique character and history. The area comprises 370 acres and houses the sculptor’s home, gardens, and studios. It was also the center of the Cornish Art Colony, one of the earliest and most vibrant communities of this type, which featured concentrations of painters, writers, architects, and musicians.
GovTrack.us currently puts the bills’ odds of passage at about 23%, which is fairly high for such a recent proposal, thanks in part to cooperation between members of Congress across party lines.
Notably, Saint-Gaudens employed a number of a young sculptors over the course of his career, including Adolph A. Weinman, who would go on to design the Mercury dime and Walking Liberty half dollar.
Other nationally-recognized sites for the arts include the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York, the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site in Danville, California.
Saint-Gaudens’s home received Congressional authorization to become a National Historic Site on August 31, 1964, and officially assumed that status in May 30, 1977. More information on Double Eagles can be found here.