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Designed between 1926 and 1928 in her first collaboration with landscape architect Fletcher Steele, Miss Choate referred to the garden as “her joy and delight.” This fall, The Trustees are excited to turn our focus to the Afternoon Garden, and restoring the comfortable grandeur that so delighted Miss Choate, as part of the second phase of our multi-year restoration of Naumkeag’s extensive gardens.
With its 17 carved, Venetian gondola poles, sculpture by renowned artist Frederick MacMonnies, and fountains, the Afternoon Garden may seem puzzling for Naumkeag’s visitors. Originally inspired by outdoor garden rooms that Miss Choate had visited in California, Mexico, and the Mediterranean, the garden was intended to be a private, comfortable, and flower-filled place to relax alone or entertain guests. This simple desire masks the inherent complexity of the garden’s design and structures, many of which are not functioning properly now, and aren’t therefore currently in keeping with Miss Choate’s original vision for the look and feel of the space.
To recover its full beauty, the Afternoon Garden will require a complete restoration of its structural elements: rebuilding the walls, restoring sections of the grape arbor, installing new water systems, and repairing the missing wall fountain are among the needed repairs. Defining features such as the weathered Venetian poles, the glass pool, planters, and original seating will also be restored. It was the complexity of the project that prompted The Trustees to focus solely on the restoration of this single garden for phase two. As Mark Wilson, The Trustees’ West Region Cultural Resources Manager, explains, “This ensures that we give proper attention to details and get things right.” In an auspicious sign that The Trustees are on the right track, the Afternoon Garden’s new gondola poles will be carved by none other than sculptor Robert Shure of Skylight Studios. It was recently discovered that Mr. Shure’s mentor, Arcangelo Cascieri, had carved the original poles for Miss Choate and Fletcher Steele all those decades ago!
Dismantling of the Afternoon Garden will begin this fall with a goal of finishing the restoration by next summer. The project is made possible by the anonymous, matching gift that initiated the multi-year Naumkeag garden restoration project, coupled with a generous grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and funding from the Town of Stockbridge Community Preservation Committee.
Community support recognizing the value of Naumkeag’s gardens for future visitors, young and old, is as heartening for The Trustees as it would have been for Miss Choate, who once wisely observed that “Of all the works of man, the garden alone becomes more beautiful as the generations pass through it.”
Published October 2013