Seventy-five years ago in the Town of Genessee Depot (30 miles west of Milwaukee), the most revered acting team in American theater history, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, conjured a haven they called Ten Chimneys. Lunt and Fontanne were perhaps the greatest English-speaking acting team of the 20th century, a partnership strengthened by their well-publicized marriage of more than 50 years. The couple's artistic legacy endures through Ten Chimneys.
Lunt and Fontanne
designed and decorated Ten Chimneys the same way they crafted each
performance one delightful detail building upon another. Each
room was carefully dressed as if it were a stage set. Almost all of
its historic furnishings, hand-painted murals, enchantingly personal
decor and diverse collections are intact and unchanged since the
Lunts first assembled them sometime in the 1930s. The dining room has
been painstakingly renovated. It is a room that saw the likes of Noel
Coward, Carol Channing, Katherine Hepburn and Helen Hayes. To
experience this room and its ambience, visit with this Quicktime virtual tour [480kb].
Although restoration on the dining room is fairly complete, community leaders and arts professionals in Wisconsin and around the country are continuing to collaborate to save more of this unique and irreplaceable national historic site. Indeed, Ten Chimneys is counted among other national treasures and has been designated as an official project of Save America's Treasures.
An important goal of restoring Ten Chimneys is to share this remarkable estate with the public through estate tours and exhibitions. A public charity, Ten Chimneys Foundation, now owns the estate and its contents. The Foundation is working with national and local supporters to restore and preserve Ten Chimneys and open it to the public in May 2003.
Some of our Cultural Coalition partners are involved with Ten Chimneys and its Foundation in various ways. The O'Brien Family Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society features many photographs of the Lunts in its archives. And the Wisconsin Center for Film Research has several Lunt and Fontanne films. The Wisconsin Academy for Sciences, Arts and Letters has co-hosted an event at this historic location with Uta Hagen who received an honorary degree from University of Wisconsin - Madison and got her theatrical start with the Lunts. Also, the Wisconsin Humanities Council has given grants to the Ten Chimneys Foundation. Finally, several courses about the Lunts have been taught through University of Wisconsin Extension-Continuing Education.