Ten Chimneys main house (Kristine Weir-Martell photo, 2009)
Ten Chimneys cottage (Amanda Shilling photo, 2009)
Ten Chimneys studio and wagon shed (Amanda Shilling photo, 2011)
Depot Road, Town of Genesee, Waukesha County
Architects: Charles Dornbusch; Eschweiler & Eschweiler
Dates of construction: 1914-1948
Acting legends Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt built Ten Chimneys as their summer home. Lunt purchased the property in Genessee Depot in 1913 and began work on the main house in 1914. After the couple married in 1922, they transformed the property into a country estate, expanding the house and adding outbuildings. In the 1930s, Broadway set designer Claggett Wilson elaborately decorated the house with wallpaper cutouts and extensive floor to ceiling mural work.
The Lunts either designed or decorated all of the buildings on the property to evoke their Scandinavian and English ancenstry. The board and batten pool house recalls Swedish town houses, while traditional Scandinavian log farm buildings inspired the studio and stable. The interiors are theatrical in their décor. In addition to Wilson's elaborate murals in the main house, Alfred Lunt decorated the cottage with Swedish folk murals and decorations.
Fontanne and Lunt were America's most famous theatrical couple; they performed together in over 40 Broadway plays, and several movies and television programs. Many of the leading actors and playwrights of the mid-twentieth century, such as Noel Coward, Helen Hayes, Lawrence Olivier, and Vivian Leigh, were friends of the Lunts and stayed at Ten Chimneys. There they wrote, rehearsed, and relaxed in a bucolic setting that provided a refuge from the tension and strain of their theatrical work.
When Ten Chimneys was threatened by demolition and dissolution of its contents, the
Ten Chimneys Foundation was formed to purchase, restore, and open Ten Chimneys to the public. After a painstaking restoration Ten Chimneys is now open for tours.