Tag Archive | Genesee Depot

Ten Chimneys – Tour of the Estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne


Ten Chimneys Sign

At long last, we finally had the opportunity to take this tour in Genesee Depot.  Only children 12 and over are permitted to take the tour due to the estate’s fragility. This tour  normally is $35 a person, but was free May 29 & 30 because of a special event taking place. The Greater Milwaukee Foundation (GMF) gave a gift to visitors (and residents) to the Milwaukee area and free admission was granted to three venues in the Milwaukee Metro area. We have known about Ten Chimneys and we had to take advantage of this rare opportunity. Thanks GMF!

This is the former estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne,  actors who married and decided to live here during their off months (summers) of performing in movies and plays.  When they retired they lived here full-time. You wouldn’t think a tiny community in Wisconsin would attract stars of stage and screen, but it did in this case since Alfred grew up in Wisconsin.  Genesee Depot turned out to be the perfect setting for this peaceful home for the Lunts.  After restoration, it was opened to the public in 2003 for tours.We meet first in the Visitor Center to check in and we begin our tour promptly at 9.

Lunt-Fontanne Program Center Building at Ten Chimneys

Our tour docents are Annette and Myron Olson, who really brought to life the lives of the Lunts for us, and their personalities. You felt like you knew the Lunts after this tour! Here is a map of the estate (click to enlarge).

Docents Annette and Myron OlsenTen Chimneys Map

We began  by watching a short film introducing us to the Lunts, which you can see here.

The shuttle bus is arriving to take us on our tour, it lasts two hours and photography is only permitted of the outside, not inside. The tour is on a tight schedule and you can’t wander off by yourself to take pictures. You have to move fast!

We begin at the Main House, a marker is just outside of the driveway. We spent an hour here, there were many rooms to see!

Lunt Main House at Ten Chimneys

Ten Chimneys marker

We were amazed at the art and beauty here, preserved just as it was when the Lunts were alive. The kitchen was a delight, Alfred had taken a 6-week culinary course at Le Cordon Bleu in France and cooked for the both of them (Lynn didn’t cook). We saw their main dining room, their bedroom and guest rooms.  Annette and Myron really knew their stuff, you felt like they knew the Lunts personally!

After the main house we walked on the path to the Studio, also saw the Greenhouse from the outside. They also recently acquired chickens, Alfred also had them when they lived here. In fact, he grew most of their own food in the garden so they were getting produce as local as you can get!  We also visited his kitchen (and took our only sit-down break there) and we were told he even created his own recipes which were then compiled into a cookbook. We could get it in the gift shop too!

Greenhouse and Garden at Ten Chimneys



The Studio at Ten Chimneys


A couple of the out buildings near the Studio.

Out Buildings at Ten Chimneys


On the path to the Cottage  you could see the Poolhouse and pool, which is still filled each summer for special events. It has been a cool spring so it wasn’t filled yet.

Pool and Pool House at Ten Chimneys


 My favorite building, the Cottage. Painted in my favorite color red, it was just as delightful on the inside.

The Cottage frame at Ten Chimneys

The tour was coming to an end and we shuttled back to the visitor center to see the displays. We were on the first tour at 9 AM, they were taking groups of 12 out every 15 minutes, it was a “sold-out” event both days.  Since this was a big celebration, it came complete with cake to celebrate! A lady from the GMF was there serving it to the visitors, thank you!

Greater Milwaukee Foundation cake at Ten Chimneys

Now for the many beautiful displays, many interactive.  This is a re-creation of the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York City, opened in 1948.

Lunt-Fontanne Theater Marquee at Ten Chimneys


The view right inside, a stage and audio players to hear excerpts from their many plays.

Visitor Center Stage Mock Stage at Ten Chimneys

There were also “Toy Theaters” depicting scenes from 5 of the Lunt’s plays and their single movie, The Guardsman . Alfred built them, his skills were immense. Very interesting!  Tinsel prints go back to the early 1800’s, and the Lunts did collect some as part of their art collection.

Toy Theater sign

There were 6 toy theaters displayed, all but one were working. The Guardsman was the only movie the Lunts performed in, released in 1931.

Four Toy Theaters at Ten Chimneys

Two Toy Theaters


Be sure to stop in the gift shop, we got a tour flip book and postcards. Many books were there too, including the cookbook assembled from Alfred’s recipes. Since I am a cook, you can be sure I bought this too 🙂

Alfred Lunt Cookbook


We recommend this tour to anyone who appreciates history and theater.  We really had a great time!

Hot Website Links

Ten Chimneys Foundation

Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Le Cordon Bleu in Paris

Lunt Fontanne Theater

Lostpastremembered.blogspot.com-Another blog about the Lunts, more pictures.

Markandfrantz.com-Friday Favorites…Tinsel Prints


A Beary Good Time in Mukwonago

Mukwonago sign

No, I wrote beary in the title on purpose, “Mukwonago” literally means “place of the bear”.  It’s located 15 miles south of the Milwaukee city limits. My husband I went there yesterday (3-9-13)  for a visit.  This town has strong roots in Native American culture, and the populace enjoys visitors.  We headed downtown to the historic downtown where a couple of the original houses stood when the town was founded,  there was a 9-foot tall wood carving of a bear.

Bear carving

We also found a synopsis of the history of the town on a sign.

Mukwonago History

Native American history is also quite visible. Outside The Country Porch store downtown is a wooden Indian outside, not many of those left anymore.

Wood Indian

We continued to a local store that is a favorite in the area,  “The Elegant Farmer”.  This is a very unique store, it’s in a barn, and they sell all manner of specialty foods, plus they have a deli. Across the street they have an apple orchard and grow pumpkins.  The have many events throughout the year for the public to enjoy.  It’s a happy place, as depicted by their smiley face barn front facing the road.

The Elegant Farmer Smiley Barn 3-9-13

They had a maple syrup making demo at The Elegant Farmer.

Maple Syrup Demo

Staff from Covenant Harbor at nearby Lake Geneva have sugar maple trees on site that they tap and make their own maple syrup from. They are having a Maple Fest on April 7 and they were promoting this event.  We learned it takes about 70-80 gallons of sap boiled down to make ONE gallon of maple syrup.

A food the The Elegant Farmer is famous for is their  “Apple Pie Baked in a Bag”. Bobby Flay from the Food Network tried to make a better apple pie on his show “Throwdown With Bobby Flay”, but he lost!

Apple Pie in bag

We had a good time and will return later in the year. We also want to explore two other nearby towns, Genesee and Genesee Depot.  There is a historic site at Genesee Depot that is not open yet called Ten Chimneys we want to see.