Kick back and relax in this magical fairy tail spot while enjoying your favorite book or take a stroll through the grounds of Naumkeag, in Lenox, Massachusetts. Noted for its large gardens, which were designed in the mid-20th century by noted landscape designer Fletcher Steele along with Choate’s daughter Mabel, this is a top attraction in Massachusetts.
Naumkeag was designed by architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White in 1885 as the summer estate for Joseph Hodges Choate 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 some of the Choate family’s furniture, Chinese porcelain, and artwork collection.
The house sits within 8 acres of terraced gardens.You’ll be delighted to take a walk around The Rose Garden, The Afternoon Garden, and The Chinese Garden or around the landscaped grounds surrounded by 40 acres of woodland, meadow, and pasture. Naumkeag’s grounds were first designed in the late 1880s by Nathan Barrett, then replanted and expanded between 1926 and 1956 by the noted landscape designer Fletcher Steele. Barrett’s original designs included two terraces as well as what it is now the Chinese Garden and an evergreen topiary. His most famous design however are the Blue Steps in the Afternoon Garden and the Chinese Garden.
Joseph Choate first offered the landscape design to Frederick Law Olmsted, but later rejected his proposal to place the house halfway down the hill because of where his favorite oak tree was located. The landscaping contract was instead given to Nathan Barrett, a self-taught designer then best known for his municipal work. .Berrett’s design included formal flower gardens near the house, and had a broad meadow slope down the hill, with an orchard and the family cemetery plot at the bottom. For the main fountain Choate commissioned White’s friend and sculptor Frederick MacMonnies which work. The resulted in the production of The Young Faun With Heron.
Naumkeag’s main house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The listing was expanded and the entire estate was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2007. Its designation was made for the architecture and content of the house, becouse they were well-preserved examples of a Gilded Age country estate, and for the innovative landscape design work of Fletcher Steele.
Walking through the grounds with a little one and getting lost in the labyrinth of gardens while enjoying the quiet and tranquility, the sound of singing birds and fountains and having snack on few of the many benches along the way while gazing at the gorgeous hills was possibly the best way to spent a day in the Berkshires.
We suggest you get there early (like we did). This way you can have the gardens pretty much all to yourself. There are tours of the house available, but we would not recommend doing them with small children. There is plenty outside of the house to do with little once. Give yourself at least a morning or an afternoon to be able to enjoy this magnificent scene. Beside the house and the gardens there are few short trails you can take right outside the garden. Naumkeag is open from June 4 – June 27 Thursday – Mondays 10AM–5PM (last tour at 3:30PM) and from June 27 – Columbus Day 7 Days a week 10AM–5PM (last tour at 3:30PM) and can be found here:
As Always Don’t Lose Your Travel Bug!