Chinese Temple Garden: New future for a wonder from the past at Naumkeag
STOCKBRIDGE — Following her own journey east, it took more than 20 years for Mabel Choate and Fletcher Steele to create the Chinese Temple Garden.
On Saturday, Naumkeag dedicated its annual garden party to the entire renovation and reopening of the Chinese Temple Garden, some 60 years after its initial completion.
The event — which featured live music, dancing, and a ribbon cutting with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and wife Jill Hornor — also celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Trustees of Reservations, the nation's first conservation organization to which Naumkeag was bequeathed decades ago.
If there was ever a place to host a garden party, it's Naumkeag, and guests invited to wander the estate's luxurious landscapes with cocktails in hand.
The Chinese Temple Garden's renovation was the culmination of more than $4 million of investment into preserving and improving Naumkeag since 2013.
"The creators, the artisans here made this masterpiece and national landmark what it is. We feel their works are worth preserving for all time," Trustees President and CEO Barbara Erickson told a crowd of more than 100 guests on Saturday.
Built by Joseph Choate in the late 19th century before it was Inherited and transformed by Mabel Choate in 1929, Naumkeag is a scenic open-to-the-public throwback to the Gilded Age that now falls under the umbrella of the Trustees of Reservations, an organization that seeks to preserve historic and cultural treasures throughout Massachusetts.
The Chinese Temple Garden took more than 20 years to create and was completed in 1955, just three years before Mabel Choate's death.
"She immersed herself in Hawaii, Japan, and Chinese cultures in 1935 — think about that: a single woman traveling to Asia, bringing back ideas about what a garden could be," Erickson said. "Mabel desired a traveler's garden, bringing home to America foreign life and habits to enrich our ways here."
Trustees Curator Mark Wilson said the extensive work on the Chinese Temple Garden began about a year ago and included a dive into old photographs to ensure the space was accurately recreated to its original state, down to every last detail. The renovations also included structural repairs.
"We should be good for years to come," Wilson said.
The Chinese Temple Garden was a center of song and dance throughout the evening.
"Many of you know the story of 'if you dig a hole deep enough you get to China,'" said Yo-Yo Ma. "Well in this case, you don't have to dig that deep."
There is plenty to celebrate at Naumkeag. Visitation has risen sharply by 70 percent over the last three years and its revenues continue to grow.
Naumkeag is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until October, and it's suggested that visitors carve out at least one hour in their day for a tour of the garden and an additional hour for a tour of the 44-room historic cottage.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376
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