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Celebrating the Blue Steps

Blue Steps Celebration 2013

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Help us meet the $1 million challenge to restore the Naumkeag gardens! We need your support by September 30.

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Learn about the restorations that are underway at Naumkeag.

In July, we kicked off a series of celebrations in honor of the Blue Steps at Naumkeag. This summer marks two milestones for the iconic garden features at this Stockbridge landmark.

First, it’s the 75th anniversary of their creation. The Blue Steps are regarded worldwide as one of the masterpieces designed by renowned landscape architect Fletcher Steele for Mabel Choate, whose family built this beautiful estate in the 1880s.

That Fletcher’s vision resulted in this beautiful creation is a tribute to his genius and to his and Mabel’s wonderful collaboration on the entire Naumkeag landscape. Steele is considered the father of modern American landscape design, and only a handful of his gardens are actually open for people to visit today, which makes our work here at Naumkeag to preserve his legacy even more critical.

We’re also celebrating the renewal and restoration of the Blue Steps as part of our three-year project to restore the entire garden landscape at Naumkeag. Work on the Blue Steps had begun in the winter and, by mid-summer, their white railings and the iconic half-moons set into each step had been repaired and repainted. The concrete steps themselves were also repointed as part of the project, the fountain-water system repaired, and the birch trees that frame the steps replanted.

On July 20, we gathered with friends and supporters for a special event to dedicate the newly refreshed steps and raise money towards meeting the $1 million challenge donation from an anonymous donor to fund the entire project. That afternoon, “Eli’s Gershwin Constellation” led guests on a New-Orleans–style march through the gardens to the bottom of the steps for the official ceremony. Joseph Hallowell, Mabel Choate’s great-nephew, joined us to dedicate the steps, sharing stories of his childhood summer days playing amidst the garden features that today are studied and renowned by professional landscape architects and passionate enthusiasts alike. Trustees’ President Barbara Erickson and Joe then officially reopened the Blue Steps to the public. Later that evening, guests gathered along the Oak Lawn to watch a stunning sunset and enjoy fireworks.

The Blue Steps were not only the garden feature to be celebrated that night. The Linden Walk and Ronde Pointe were also basking in the glow of their dramatic restoration. Modeled after wooded walks in Germany, the Linden Walk pulls visitors into cool shade for a sheltered stroll, while the swirling coils of the South Lawn spin from Ronde Pointe like waves circling a tide pool. The overmature and overgrown trees along the Linden Walk have been replanted, bringing light and definition to this intimate allée, while the concrete and stonework of Ronde Pointe has been refreshed and restored to once again bring out the garden feature’s striking beauty.

As summer turns into fall, we will begin phase two of the restoration, bringing Mabel Choate’s beloved Afternoon Garden – the first project she and Fletcher Steele collaborated on at Naumkeag – back to its original splendor and shine.

The Trustees’ legacy of preservation and care of such iconic places as Naumkeag and our other historic properties such as Castle Hill, Mission House, and Ashley House, is one of the things that makes The Trustees so unique. Our founder Charles Eliot envisioned an organization that connected people to place and art to nature – a blended balance. All of our properties – from our beaches to our farms to our historic sites – are powerful and compelling platforms for improving the quality of life of our communities.

We’re excited to be moving this remarkable restoration forward at Naumkeag – with support from all of you – and look forward to continuing the celebration with you this fall.

Published August 2013

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