Arts & Culture

Behind the Tour: Naumkeag

High atop the hills of Stockbridge sits a Gilded Age time capsule brought to life by passionate Trustees interpreters.

Trustees Interpreter Julie Gorman stands in front of Naumkeag before giving a Guided Garden Tour.

Driving along Prospect Hill Road through the Berkshires, you’re bound to come across a low stone wall blocking views of the valley below. At first glance, it’s hardly memorable; But when you step onto the other side into Naumkeag, you begin to realize why this location is on so many people’s bucket list.

“I think, ‘Wow!’ gets said the most throughout the day by visitors,” said Kendra Knisley, Trustees Education and Interpretation Manager for the Southern Berkshires. “I often hear how glad they are that they made the trip to come and visit.”

Whether that’s in awe of the view overlooking the Housatonic River and Monument Mountain, the beauty of the diverse gardens and landscape, or the rich stories of the historic home, a “Wow!” waits around every bend.

“There’s beauty, history, gardens, and a sense of whimsy ingrained into the very fabric of this special place,” said Brian Cruey, Trustees Regional VP, Western Hills and Berkshires. “You just have to show up and look for it.”

That’s where Trustees interpreters like Julie Gorman step in, conducting a wide range of tours that bring the property to life. There are daily Guided Garden and Architecture Tours, alongside specialty Backstairs Tours on weekends that take you through normally closed portions of the historic home.

Meet Julie Gorman

Trustees Interpreter Julie Gorman stands in the gardens at Naumkeag.

After a career in teaching, Julie Gorman was looking for the next phase in her life that still used her skill and passion for storytelling. That’s when her friend—who was already a docent at Naumkeag—invited her for a visit.

“I had driven up and down that hill many times and had never known what was beyond the stone wall,” said Gorman. “From the moment I crossed it and saw the view, I fell in love.”

That love has turned into a decade-long passion for Naumkeag working as a Trustees Interpreter researching, designing, and conducting tours that share the property’s incredible history. One of her favorites is the Guided Garden Tour where her storytelling mastery is on full display.

“Gardens are created by people, their stories, and the problems they solve,” said Gorman. “The garden tour gives you an appreciation for all of these facets, giving the garden soul.”

Trustees Interpreter Julie Gorman gives a Guided Garden Tour at Naumkeag.

From the Blue Steps designed for access to the Cutting Garden, to the Rose Garden made to look like a painting from the bedroom window, to the cherished family memories made under the massive oak tree, Gorman walks you through the stories behind decades of design. But her passion doesn’t stop at the gardens.

The Backstairs Tours were developed by Gorman herself and take visitors behind-the-scenes to discover the secrets of running a Gilded Age country estate. Not only can you visit rarely-seen areas of Naumkeag—such as the basement kitchens and third-floor maid’s quarters—but you’ll also learn about the unique bond between owner Mabel Choate and her servants.

“When you can celebrate friendship, family, and joy on a tour, what’s not to like,” said Gorman. “Who doesn’t want to feel that!?”

Discover these stories when visiting Naumkeag this summer! Advance passes are strongly encouraged and include the guided garden tours (at 10:30AM, 11:30AM, and 2:00PM) and architecture tours (at 1:00PM) when the weather permits. Pre-registration for the weekend Backstairs Tours is required.

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