The Berkshires: Naumkeag

The Berkshires: Naumkeag

Edited & Published by Dina Reis, CEO & editor-in-chief of

Naumkeag is an amazing house or “cottage” as the wealthy would refer to their summer retreats. Naumkeag was designed by noted architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White in 1885 as the summer estate for Joseph Hodges Choate (1832–1917), a prominent New York City attorney and American ambassador to England from 1899 to 1905, and then his daughter Mabel. The house is built in the Shingle Style with a wood-shingled exterior featuring brick and stone towers, prominent gables and large porch, and interiors with fine woodwork. It contains the Choate family’s furniture, Chinese porcelain, and artwork collected from AmericaEurope, and the Far East.

We highly recommend taking both tours interiors and the gardens. Don’t miss The Blue Steps created in 1938 by Steele to offer Mabel Choate with a gradual descent to her cutting gardens. The Art-Deco design is thought to be one of the most famous built landscapes in America.The Oxford Companion to Gardens describes this beautiful design as follows: ‘In the Blue Steps (of concrete painted light blue) rising in sweeps over small cascades through a birch wood, which he created, selecting trees of assorted sizes, he has successfully re-interpreted Renaissance forms in terms of the modern concern for values of space, form, texture, and color.”

Between 1895 and 1925 minor changes were made to the gardens under the guidance of Percival Gallagher and Marian Coffin. Design decisions in the later years were dominated by Choate’s daughter Mabel, especially after Choate’s death in 1917. Mabel acquired full control of the estate after her mother’s death in 1929. Mabel Choate began her long and fruitful collaboration with designer Fletcher Steele in 1926. Upon her death in 1958 the estate was bequeathed to the Trustees of Reservations, to be “an authentic representation of the times and manner of living which it now [1958] reflects.”

The Choates were an interesting family and the docents know every juicy detail, happy and sad. It’s a don’t miss tour. The Rich are Different. F. Scott Fitzgerald was right.


5 Prospect Hill Rd

Stockbridge, MA 01262 413-298-3239


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