Naumkeag Unveils Garden Audio Tour for Visitors

Contact Information
Susan Edwards
Director of Historic Resources
978.921.1944 x1896

Will Garrison
Historic Resources Manager
413.298.3239 x3012

Media Inquiries
Kristi Perry
Public Relations Manager

Stockbridge, Massachusetts – The Trustees of Reservations today announced that Naumkeag visitors now have an opportunity to experience the world-famous gardens through a state of the art audio tour, free with admission. As visitors take in the glorious views and exquisite gardens, they will hear words and music, deepening their experience at this National Historic Landmark. The audio tour will feature the words of landscape architect Fletcher Steele and Naumkeag’s owner, Mabel Choate. Charles A. Birnbaum, President of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, contributed his time and expertise, providing insights into the sophisticated and beautiful designed landscapes at Naumkeag. The audio tour was produced by Antenna Audio of Sausalito, California.

Naumkeag will be open for the season beginning on May 24, 2008, daily from 10AM – 5PM. Located at 5 Prospect Hill Road in Stockbridge, Naumkeag visitors are invited to take the garden audio tour and guided tours of the house as well as to choose from a variety of special events held throughout the summer, including the popular “Music in the Gardens” series, held on Sunday afternoons in July and August. For more information, please call 413.298.3239 x3000 or visit

Other voices on the audio tour include Richard Guy Wilson, Professor of Architectural History at the University of Virginia; Nicholas Platt, Miss Choate’s nephew; and The Trustees’ Assistant Superintendent Joshua Burch, who has cared for Naumkeag’s gardens for over 30 years.

As stated in a recent Boston Globe travel article, Naumkeag, which is owned by The Trustees of Reservations, the nation’s oldest, statewide land trust and nonprofit conservation organization, is “widely considered the most iconic public garden in New England.” Built on a hillside overlooking the Berkshires, Naumkeag is an outstanding example of a country estate from the 19th-century Gilded Age. Named for the Native American word for the area around Salem, Massachusetts, Naumkeag’s main house is filled with original late-19th-century furnishings, arts and antiques from around the world. The 44-room estate was designed by the famous firm of McKim, Mead & White, and constructed between 1885 and 1886. The US Department of the Interior designated Naumkeag a National Historic Landmark in 2007.

Naumkeag is famous for its sophisticated 20th-century-designed landscaped gardens that evolved incrementally over several decades. Fletcher Steele, considered by many to be America–s first, modern landscape architect, worked between 1929 and 1958 in collaboration with Mabel Choate to design Naumkeag–s eight acres of “garden rooms.” Steele’s commission at Naumkeag, the longest of his career, produced a series of landscapes – from the Afternoon Garden, Chinese Garden and Evergreen Garden, to the famous Moon Gate and Blue Steps – which today serve as icons of American garden design.

The house, one of the so-called “Berkshires Cottages,” combined the new Shingle-Style architecture with traditional European elements including brick and stone towers, two-tone brick patterns and wrought iron architectural details. Inside, the home is decorated with elegant cherry, oak and mahogany paneling, ornate plaster, decorative flooring, brass and silver hardware and a three-story oak staircase.

Mabel Choate, a well known preservationist and horticulturist, inherited Naumkeag from her mother in 1929. Miss Choate was the daughter of Joseph Hodges Choate (1832–1917), a famous New York lawyer and Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and Caroline Sterling Choate (1837–1929), an artist and co-founder of Barnard College. The Choates built Naumkeag as a summer home for their family?including a farm, greenhouses and vegetable gardens – so they could escape from the city and enjoy a more picturesque, pastoral life. Unlike the larger houses of Newport, RI, and Lenox, which were open for only a six-week “season,” the Choates summered at Naumkeag from April to November.

For many years Miss Choate traveled around the world gaining inspirations for decorating, horticulture and garden design; the results which can be seen throughout Naumkeag’s interior and exterior. Upon her death in 1958, Miss Choate bequeathed the house and grounds to The Trustees of Reservations to help preserve the “aura of goodness and gracious living” for future generations to enjoy. With the new audio tour, Miss Choate’s own words – as read by an actress – is heard again.

About The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees are 100,000 people like you, from every corner of Massachusetts, who share a deep set of similar values – a love of the land, the outdoors and the distinctive charms of New England – as well as a shared vision of celebrating and protecting these special places for everyone, forever.

Founded in 1891 by Charles Eliot, an open space visionary and protégé of the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, The Trustees of Reservations own and manage 99 reservations, comprising nearly 25,000 acres, which are all open to the public. Offering something for everyone, Trustees properties are tremendously diverse and include mountains, open meadows, parks, working farms, stately homes and gardens, 70 miles of stunning coastline and five National Historic landmarks. The Trustees also hold perpetual conservation restrictions on over 16,000 additional acres?more than any other conservation organization in Massachusetts – permanently protecting scenic and natural areas from development, and have worked with communities and other conservation partners to assist in the protection of another 16,000+ acres around the state.

The Trustees’ governing board, administration, staff, members, visitors, donors, and volunteers are all considered “Trustees,” who hold in trust, care for, and enjoy special places of cultural, natural, and historical significance, or "Reservations." As land is being developed and open space is being fragmented at a rapid pace around the state, time is running out. To find out how you can help by becoming a member and a “Trustee of the planet” in your own community, please call The Trustees at 781.784.0567, visit, or email

Statewide, The Trustees employ 180 full-time and 350–400 seasonal staff with expertise in many areas, including ecology, education, historic resources, land protection, conservation, land management, and planning. To find out how you can interview Trustees’ experts on important topics and issues or apply for employment opportunities, please contact

In the Berkshires region, The Trustees manage and care for 13 spectacular properties, including Naumkeag, Bartholomew’s Cobble, the Mission House, Field Farm, Mountain Meadow Preserve, Ashintully Gardens, Tyringham Cobble, and the Ashley House. Locally, as well as statewide, The Trustees are working to raise community awareness around the importance of preserving and protecting the scenic, historic and ecologically-significant landscapes that make this part of the state so unique. Supported by dedicated staff, volunteers, members and donors, The Trustees work each day to interpret the stories that are a part of our local history, as well as to sustain local farms, protect and care for natural and scenic resources, and offer outdoor experiences that contribute to the quality of life in this region. To reach the Berkshires regional office, please call 413.298.3239.