Built as a Picturesque summer home for the Choate family, the estate included a 40-acre farm, greenhouses, vegetable gardens, and a 44-room, Gilded Age mansion designed by architects McKim, Mead & White between 1885 and 1886. Landscape architect Nathan Barrett developed the original design for the terraced gardens in the 1880s. Mabel Choate inherited Naumkeag from her mother in 1929.
Fletcher Steele, often considered America’s first Modernist landscape architect, worked between 1929 and 1956 in collaboration with Choate to design “garden rooms,” the longest commission of his career. Steele’s first insertion at Naumkeag brought Frederick MacMonnies statue, “Young Faun with Heron” to the new Afternoon Garden. His distinctive Rose Garden, with serpentine ground plane patterning, is best viewed from above. No longer operating as a single path, the unifying watercourse originally began at the top of the hill in the Chinese Garden, site of Steele’s Moon Gate, then drained to the fountain in Barrett’s Evergreen Garden, and down a rill to Steele’s most iconic work, the Blue Steps, which led to the cutting and vegetable gardens at the base of the hill.
Upon her death in 1958, Miss Choate bequeathed the house and grounds, now eight acres, to The Trustees of Reservations. Naumkeag was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007.