America’s longest running dance festival is situated on 150 acres of rural woodland nestled in the Berkshire Mountains. Settled as a mountaintop farmstead in 1790, the property was purchased in 1931 by modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn for use as a summer retreat and dance school. In 1941, Shawn sold the property to a consortium of patrons but remained involved until 1972. A theatre was built in his honor, designed by engineer Joseph Franz; it was the first theater in the country designed expressly for dance performances. The Jacob’s Pillow boulder, situated behind the original farmhouse, serves as an important natural landmark on the site.
Today the complex includes two 18th-century farmhouses, numerous outbuildings, and three theaters. In the crux of the C-shaped Ted Shawn Theatre is the Tea Garden, a sunken lawn bordered by a stone retaining wall and perennial flower beds, built in 1942. On the east side of the theatre, a low curved stone wall encloses a small plaza set with three wooden light fixtures. South of the theatre and contiguous with a hardwood forest lies the Great Lawn, a one-acre green redesigned from a former parking lot in 1986. In 1999, The Wetlands Trail was created, following the course of a former logging trail through stands of hemlock and pine. Other landscape features include a swimming hole with a fieldstone dam and a landscaped Fire Pond constructed in the 1930s. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003.