If you're a garden lover, history buff, architecture fan or avid photographer, a visit to Naumkeag should definitely be on your Berkshires itinerary. This glorious estate in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, not only features the Gilded Age "cottage" renowned architect Stanford White designed for attorney and diplomat Joseph Hodges Choate and his family, it features one of New England's most impressive and imaginative gardens.
Naumkeag's second-generation owner, Mabel Choate, met Fletcher Steele, the father of modern landscape design, in 1926, and the two collaborated to transform the property's gardens and grounds over a thirty-year period. Mabel deeded her estate to the Trustees of Reservations, a non-profit that has carefully preserved Fletcher's vision.
These photos offer a preview of the Blue Steps and other distinctive landscape features at Naumkeag. Tours of the house and its photogenic gardens are offered daily Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. The property is also open weekends only in the earlier spring and later fall. Details: 413-298-3239.
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Functional and Beautiful
When Naumkeag's owner, Mabel Choate, asked landscape architect Fletcher Steele to create steps leading down to her cutting garden, she got more than she bargained for! The Blue Steps provide both an easy descent and a vivid accent.
The Afternoon Garden
The Afternoon Garden was Fletcher Steele's first landscape project at the Naumkeag estate in the Berkshires. These boxwood hedges were shaped to resemble an Oriental rug.
Mabel Choate complained that these stone chairs, designed for the Afternoon Garden at Naumkeag by landscape architect Fletcher Steele, weren't very comfortable, but they are certainly pleasing to behold.
A Statue with a View
Stanford White, who designed the mansion at Naumkeag, commissioned Frederick MacMonnies to create this statue, "Young Faun with Heron," for the front of the house. Fletcher Steele relocated it to his Afternoon Garden, where it enjoys a better view.
The South Lawn
A vibrant stand of Japanese maple trees on the South Lawn at Naumkeag calls attention to an ornate, Chinese-style, cast-iron pagoda. What's inside?
The Sacred Rock
Inside the pagoda on the South Lawn at Naumkeag is a sacred rock, which Mabel Choate, the estate's second-generation owner, brought back from China. Rub it, and your memory will improve, according to legend.
Like the mansion's interior, the gardens at Naumkeag are graced with souvenirs from the Choate family's extensive travels.
A Rosy Overview
The rose garden at Naumkeag, with its serpentine pathways, was designed by Fletcher Steele to be best viewed from Mabel Choate's second-floor bedroom.
The rose garden was already a bit past its prime when I toured Naumkeag's gardens in July: June would be a better month to visit if you're a rose enthusiast. These peachy rose blooms were still beautiful, though.
The Evergreen Garden
The circular Evergreen Garden is one of Naumkeag's oldest landscape features. It was sited to take advantage of distant mountain views.
During its restoration of Naumkeag's landscape to its mid-twentieth century appearance, the Trustees of Reservations reproduced the fountain in the Evergreen Garden. The original, which dated to 1890, had disappeared.