Touring the Shingle Style Naumkeag Historic House

Bob takes us to Stockbridge, MA, to tour Naumkeag, a wonderful example of the grand Shingle Style by architect Stanford White.

Clip Summary

Bob takes us to Stockbridge, MA, to tour Naumkeag, a wonderful example of the grand Shingle Style by architect Stanford White. Bob studies the ornate detail of the house and discusses its architectural features.
We'll be touring Naumkeag with its curator, Mark Bare. and I guess the first question, what does Naumkeag mean?

It's a Native American Indian word. It's actually what the Naumkeag lived in what is now Salem, where Mr. Cho grew up.

I see.
So he named it after his hometown, or the Indians from his hometown area.


That's right. That's right.

But, Mr. Choat was a wealthy New York attorney, right?
He was an attorney for over 60 years, he was also ambassador to England at the turn of the century.

A man of note and he commissioned one of the most famous architects of the late nineteenth century.

Stanford white.


Of Mckeneeden and White.


And they designed a terrific country home.

Which is really a single style home, right.

That's correct.

And use of a lot of local material, wood on the dormers, coving. You've got replication of design elements the dentation of the copper gutters running along in Horizontal lines.

The little saw tooth, that you see in the gutter, which is picking up on the saw tooth that he's got on the shingles all around, yeah.

That's correct.

But when you look at the sides of the gable ends, it's almost like fish scales going up and down the sides there.

You've also got the way the roof line curves up into the dormers and out. A very flowing line.

You know that's really, for a house that says, wants to be a cottage. That's a very sophisticated looking dormer up there, it's almost looks like something off of a French castle.

That's true, that's true.

Now, the idea with these houses was to be unpretentious, right?

That's correct. It's a place to come to from the city, to escape the city heat in the summer time and to relax, and the Choates did that usually western facade, which is the side of the house where the family would have enjoyed. You've got the, the terrace there and the covered porch...

Screen that gets out, a place to relax in the afternoon to watch the sunset.

Exactly. It destroyed their confidence.

This incredible vista of the Berkshire hills.

But let's walk around now so that we can take a look at the facade that presented itself to the visitor, right?

Where people came in, that's right.

So you come to this side of the house and it's a totally different design.

That's right. We moved away from the shingle style on the west side to a Norman style castle.

How do you explain that?

Well, Stanford White, the architect, had just returned from his honeymoon when he designed this house.


And he had toured through European Norman keeps, English manor halls so he's bringing those ideas here to the Chot's home.

So, he convinces them to kind of switch gears in mid-stream, and do this very formal facade. Although it's not that formal. I mean the roof almost reads like a thatched roof.

That's true. Harking back to England.


And you've got what was originally wood shake to give that heavy roof and those flowing lines.

And native stone combined with brick throughout. And, of course, a very beautiful and well incoming entry way.

All of which combines to a place to welcome guests in. Facing the road side.

What a door.

Solid oak, with bronze trimmings.

Perfect. So this is the central hall and the staircase. I love the red in here. Isn't this great?

This carpet that the family used.


Plus it's all hand carved American oak. The balusters and railings, leading up to the arched windows. Actually, stretches all the way to the third floor, and not only is it beautiful and sculptural, but its functional it allows air to pass through the house on warm summer evenings.

Yeah, but the detailing is so exciting because it's the guilded age, it's a wealthy family from the city coming to the country, but they're bringing with them the high style of New York. I mean, the turnings on the oak and balusters and the paneling throughout.

That's true.

Tell us about the the overmantle here. Is that also oak?

It is. All that intricate carving the smoke hood combined with the false ceiling beams. Giving the sense of an English country home.

Yeah. And again, the architect has just come back from touring Norman England and France and his mind is full of these details .

Those idea, full of those things. That's right.

Are those the original andirons?

Yes. Finished off in New York City.

And these tools, such heavy weight.


Giving that sense of the fireplace, where guests would be welcomed.

So, the plan of the house seems to be relatively cozy.

Its all right here, you come in through the front door. Guests are welcomed in, and the main rooms. Here are the dining room off to the right.

Yeah. It's sumptuous, but the scale of it is...

Somewhat intimate.

It's intimate, yeah. And the colors are interesting. Now, is this really 1880's?

Well, its a combination of 1880's. Standford White's works,with the table and chairs, the paneling.the carving around the mantle. Then the daughter, Mable Cho inherits the house in 1929 and she makes some changes. The fabric on the wall, the gold fabric, which was, her addition and a lot of the furnishings brought in.

The side board look like early nineteenth century.

That's 1810 from New York City.


That's plain mahogany.

And it's really perfect in this room. And then the collection of blue and white porcelain throughout . Tell us a little about the walls and the ceilings, they are very unusual.

They are.
The grass paper was put in by Mable Cho, the daughter. It's Japanese grass paper.


The tin ceiling, though, is from Stanford White's time. It's part of his addition to the house.

And what is the point of a tin reflection?

Well reflecting, reflecting candle light at dinner, remember no electricity when the house was built.


Candle light to light the house up for dinner.

Marvelous. What's behind that incredible, tooled leather screen there in the corner?

That leads into the butler's pantry Serving room for the house.


It's completely furnished down to the last teacup, as is the rest of the house. All of that's here today because of the generosity of Mabel Choate, Choate's daughter, who left the house to the trustees of reservations upon her death in 1958.

So the house is open in the summer?

That's right. May to October.

Fabulous. Alright, now what's across the hall?

That leads into the library.

And it looks like an everyday cozy room, doesn't it?

It is. It's a place to gather in the afternoon. Mabel Choate would have her friends in for tea. A place to read any of the first-edition murder mysteries.


And a place to relax.

Now, she lived here until the 1950s, you said.

That's right. So she was living in the house for over 70 years. And during that time, she's putting together her collection of over 500 pieces of Chinese export porcelain.


As one example of the collecting that she did while at Naumkeag.

So that's something that's scattered about the entire house.

You'll find it everywhere.

Yeah, and yet you got the murder mysteries. From the thirties and the fourties right in this room.

Yes, first editions.

Beautiful Mahogany panel again here. Great fireplace. Whats the other side? Is it a

formal room?

The joining drawing room or formal sitting room.

Oh yes.

As you can see the place, guests will gather here in the afternoon.

Pretty sumptuous room.

Well it certainly is a place to entertain your guests after dinner.

Is that Waterford?

It is Waterford crystal.
The rug looks like an Ovuson from France.

French Ovuson. All the best things.


That's it.

Just like New york. Mark, thanks for the tour.

Thanks Bob.

Stick around and we'll be right back after these messages.