Press Releases

Iconic Blue Steps of Naumkeag Restored Thanks to $38,000 in State Funding

Stockbridge  |  October 27, 2023

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. – The iconic Blue Steps at Naumkeag, a 44-room Berkshires “Cottage” from the Gilded Age, have been beautifully restored thanks to $38,000 in state funding secured by Senator Paul W. Mark (D). Senator Mark represents more than two dozen cities and towns in Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Hampshire counties.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of Senator Mark to help us do a proper restoration of the Blue Steps at Naumkeag,” said Brian Cruey, portfolio director for the Berkshires for The Trustees, who have stewarded the property since it was bequeathed to them in 1958 by the Choate family. “This funding allowed us to repair a landscape feature known around the world as a defining work of midcentury landscape architecture, that is visited by more than 70,000 visitors who come to Naumkeag each year to see this National Historic Landmark.”

“Naumkeag is an unforgettable place that helps make the Berkshires so special,” said Senator Paul Mark, D-Becket. “During an official visit as Chair of Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development I saw the disrepair firsthand, which I had also noticed while visiting the Winterlights last December, and asked how I could help. Working together with my colleagues in the Berkshire Delegation, we were able to secure this funding to restore the Blue Steps to their true beauty which I hope will help boost our local economy while continuing to build special memories for people in our community for many years to come.”

The funding supported restoration of the Blue Steps, which were designed by landscape architect Fletcher Steele in 1938. The steps attract visitors from around the world and are a highlight of the spring Daffodil and Tulip Festival, the popular Incredible Naumkeag Pumpkin Show in the fall, and award-winning Winterlights over the holidays. Naumkeag attracts local families, students and tourists, as well as resident artists and those interested in the site’s history and architecture.

The Blue Steps had been spalling due to water leaking into the masonry. The Trustees had continued to patch the concrete to maintain the integrity of the structure, but a patchwork approach was compromising the integrity of the historic structure and safety to visitors. The Trustees also repaired the steps’ wrought iron railing, which was in poor condition and needed comprehensive preparation and repainting. Senator Mark’s support to restore the Blue Steps will enable visitors to enjoy this masterpiece for decades to come.

The outdoor gardens at Naumkeag are a masterpiece of 30 years of collaborative work by former owner Mabel Choate and her friend, Fletcher Steele, one of America’s first modern landscape architects. Described by the Library of American Landscape History as a “playground for the imagination,” the gardens were restored after a three-year, $3 million project designed to rejuvenate the gardens and bring them back to Choate and Steele’s original vision. The restoration of the Blue Steps, one of the most photographed features in 20th century American landscape design, is a culmination of the project.

Naumkeag is the former country estate of noted lawyer Joseph Hodges Choate and Caroline Dutcher Sterling Choate. Naumkeag was designed by architect Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White in 1885. Choate was a prominent New York City attorney and American ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1899 to 1905, and his wife Caroline, an artist and advocate for women’s education. Naumkeag was later the residence of his daughter Mabel.

The cottage is built in the Shingle Style with a wood-shingled exterior featuring brick and stone towers, prominent gables and large porch, and interiors with fine woodwork. It contains the Choate family’s original furniture, Chinese porcelain, and artwork collected from America, Europe, and the Far East. The house sits within eight acres of terraced gardens, including The Rose Garden, The Afternoon Garden, and The Chinese Garden, and landscaped grounds surrounded by 40 acres of woodland, meadow, and pasture.

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More about The Trustees

Founded by landscape architect Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees has, for more than 125 years, been a catalyst for important ideas, endeavors, and progress in Massachusetts. As a steward of distinctive and dynamic places of both historic and cultural value, The Trustees is the nation’s first preservation and conservation organization, and its landscapes and landmarks continue to inspire discussion, innovation, and action today as they did in the past. We are a nonprofit, supported by members, friends and donors and our 118 sites are destinations for residents, members, and visitors alike, welcoming millions of guests annually.