Built in the late nineteenth-century when the rural charm of the Berkshires was attracting wealthy summer residents from New York and Boston, Naumkeag in Stockbridge was the large country estate of Joseph Choate. Designed in 1885 by the celebrated architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, the “shingled” mansion and its understated opulence make clear the wealth and position enjoyed by Choate. After Choate’s death in 1917, his wife Caroline lived at Naumkeag until her death in 1929. Their daughter, Mabel, continued living in the mansion, and it was she who endowed it in 1958 to The Trustees of Reservations to preserve Naumkeag for future generations.
Mabel Choate bequeathed Naumkeag to the Trustees, knowing that her family’s beloved summer estate would be preserved forever. The Trustees have taken this responsibility seriously, preserving the main house and all of its contents, the gardens, and outbuildings. And now, fifty-four years after initially receiving Naumkeag from the Choates, we needed to restore the roof.
If you’ve been to Naumkeag before, you’re going to be in for a treat when you come visit this year. The original cypress shingle roof designed by Stanford White was replaced with asphalt roofing materials in 1926 and 1978. The Trustees are now removing the asphalt shingles from the 1978 roof and restoring its original design of wooden shingles. We are using sustainably harvested Alaskan Yellow Cedar to provide the densest, longest lasting wood to match the original cypress which will age to a handsome silver color. Modeled from the historic archives (and with scientific information from forensic roof deconstruction!) the new roof will feature wooden hips and valleys which sweep across the roof planes and “melt” into dormers, gables, and sleeping porches to celebrate the “Shingle Style”.
Published January 2013