A Peek Inside Ten Chimneys: The Home of America’s First Couple of the Stage

Warren O’Brien Photos from the O’Brien Family Collection at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin 

Just 30 miles northwest of Lake Geneva, nestled in the rolling hills of the Kettle Moraine is Ten Chimneys, the 60-acre estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, widely considered the greatest acting team in the history of American theatre.

The couple spent every summer from the 1920s to the 1960s at Ten Chimneys. Once they retired from the stage in 1960, they lived at the estate year-round. Some of America’s most recognized and beloved actors visited their southern Wisconsin retreat, including Montgomery Clift, Noel Coward, Joan Crawford, Helen Hayes, Charlie Chaplin, Sir Laurence Olivier and Katherine Hepburn.

The Lunts named their Genesee Depot estate after the number of chimneys on the main house, cottage and studio. The house is filled with the couple’s original furnishings and treasures from their travels around the world. The estate was one of the first historic sites to be named an official project of Save America’s Treasures, a public-private partnership between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Ten Chimneys is open to the public from mid-April to the end of November.


Touring Ten Chimneys

Operated by the Ten Chimneys Foundation, the estate was opened to the public on May 26th, 2003, on what would have been the Lunts’ 81st wedding anniversary. Tours of the estate occur Tuesdays through Sundays, rain or shine. Knowledgeable docents guide groups, offering an interactive experience through the entire estate or just the main house.

The full estate tour includes the three story main house, plus the cottage, studio, restored gardens and the exteriors of the pool house, greenhouse and creamery. Guests should allow two hours for this tour. Cost: $35

The main house tour is designed for those who may have difficulty navigating the full estate. It showcases 14 rooms in the main house. Guests should allow 90 minutes for the tour. Cost: $28

For more information, visit www.tenchimneys.org or call the reservation line: 262-968-4110

Author: atthelake

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