Wood designed the buildings himself, Athenwood first in 1850, and his art studio in the 1880s. Athenwood was built as a summer home, evidence of Montpelier's role at that time as a summer resort. The name of the house is derived from the mythological figure Athena. Wood chose this name as a tribute to his wife Minerva. Minerva was the Greek goddess of wisdom, as Athena was to the Romans. Several small marble statutes of Athena's head grace the main interior room of the home. Besides being a summer retreat, Athenwood also served as Wood's artist studio, until he built the separate cottage more than 30 years later. Against the backdrop of the woods behind them, Athenwood and the studio are good examples of typical rural Gothic cottages. Both consist of characteristically vertical and angular elements, using natural wood as their primary building material, and decorative motifs inspired by the rural setting of which it is apart. The decorative tulip leaf patterns, as well as grape leaf and vine motifs, are some of these buildings most distinctive features. Wood, who was trained as a cabinet maker, may have carved these himself.
In addition to being one of the most popular painters of his time, Wood was also President of the American Water Color Society and the National Academy. He was a great benefactor of Montpelier, and his home and studio are an important part of the city's visual and historic fabric. The two buildings standing along the gorge provide a visually coherent and dramatic gateway to the city.