In 1937 Walter Gropius, who taught at Harvard University, and his wife Ise designed vineyards, wooded houses and gardens on idyllic grounds in northwestern Boston. They built a modernist house on a hill in the center of 5.5 acres of land and organized the landscape for the next 30 years. Gropius reused the stone walls of the farmland to create a 20-foot-wide prairie base around the house, which slopes down towards the prairie. Similar stones are also used as the foundation of the house, integrating the building with its surroundings. The existing apple orchard on the northwest slope was left and mature trees such as oaks, pines and beeches were transplanted to create a landscape and surround it. The formal garden is integrated with the house, integrating indoor and outdoor spaces, providing a transition to the wetlands and forests of New England. Overhangs supporting vines and bittersweet trees, as well as pairs of pillars, are lined up to build the view of the house. In 1957, Ise was inspired by a trip to Japan to redesign the perennial garden and planted azaleas, candy clusters and cotoneasters asymmetrically on the gravel to surround the mountain maple.
Ise Gropius bequeathed the land to the New England Archaeological Preservation Society (now historic New England) in 1980 and opened it as a museum in 1984. In 2001, the second year after it was designated a National Historic Landmark, the Japanese orchard and garden were restored in the 1960s.