At Home in the Ten Chimneys Estate


By Joel Waldinger | November 13, 2019

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Whimsical, colorful and dramatic are just a few ways to describe the Ten Chimneys Estate nestled in the woods outside Genesee Depot in Waukesha County. The estate was once owned by theater royalty Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, America’s first couple of theater.

Randy Bryant is the President and CEO of the Ten Chimneys Foundation and is charged with restoring, preserving and sharing the Lunt’s legacy. Bryant is a self-proclaimed preservationist, architecture historian, and theater lover. The Ten Chimneys project feeds all those passions as a world-class museum and national resource for theater education. It’s not unusual for actors to make a pilgrimage to Ten Chimneys. When the Lunt’s lived here, their guest list included the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Helen Hayes, Carol Channing, and the list goes on and on. The actors would spend summers here as a respite from the hectic pace of New York City and Broadway.

After extensive renovations in 2003, Ten Chimneys opened to the public. Paintings are a major focal point for this Swedish-inspired manner home. World-renowned artist Claggett Wilson was hired to paint the murals. Wilson’s work adorns the walls and ceiling of the piano room – one of Randy’s favorite areas.  Wilson also painted the piano and gave the legs a cow hoof appearance to reflect the country lifestyle here.

The estate also sports the first in-ground pool in Wisconsin. At the time it was built in 1932, the “L” shaped pool was something you would only imagine in Hollywood. There is also a building called “The Studio.” It features a living room and a balcony bedroom so the Lunt’s could practice in a make-believe studio.

The stage is also set outside, across the landscape of Ten Chimneys. Bryant says, “I come out here and I love being here every day. I go for walks on the property. There’s no other place like it. I love the grounds, in terms of beauty and the aesthetics of the buildings. They were so dedicated to making sure that it was a perfect environment.”

Joel Waldinger

Joel Waldinger is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project and considers a sunset over the “big island” on Manson Lake to be a perfect ending to a day of fishing and fun in the Northwoods. 
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