Monday, September 28, 2009

an interview: ten chimneys, part I

One of the many highlights of last month's trip to Wisconsin was seeing my dear friend KDM and taking a private tour of Ten Chimneys, where he is now the director of historic preservation. Located on 60 acres in picturesque Genesee Depot, the estate was once the summer retreat of theater legends Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. And while I could tell you all about this extraordinary place myself, I thought it would be a lot more fun for you to hear about it in KDM's own words. So imagine this: JCB with sauvignon blanc in hand, and KDM with a (large) martini, sitting down for a serious tête-à-tête...


JCB: So, why Ten Chimneys?

KDM: Ten Chimneys is completely unexpected. A mentor of mine, who had been involved with the restoration of Ten Chimneys, told me about this museum while I was living in Washington. I was uncertain if I wanted to move...until I walked through the front door of this rambling white house and just, responded, to this whimsical place.

JCB: There is something very unique and quite magical about it…why do you think that is?

KDM: The Lunts created an unedited expression of their own personality. Ten Chimneys is a rare survival of an alternative aesthetic ~ a confident dismissal of accepted notions of taste or modernism. Though few of our visitors are familiar with the Lunts, they walk away from a tour inspired by Lynn and Alfred’s talent for living.

JCB: The grounds are so extensive, filled with charming outbuildings…a Scandinavian-style guest cottage, pool house, greenhouse, creamery, barn, stable! How in the world do you manage it all?

KDM: We are so fortunate to have the commitment of an outstanding community of volunteers. We have volunteers who tend the gardens, dust the furniture, mow the lawn, mop the floors – their dedication is just incredible. And this summer I worked with a remarkable group of Preservation Interns from the University of Wisconsin documenting the agricultural outbuildings.

Perhaps because I first cut my house museum teeth with the Historic Savannah Foundation, I view our sixty acres and ten historic structures as a small historic district. Each building and garden is integral to the design for living the Lunts’ created here. And, as the Kettle Moraine landscape of southeastern Wisconsin is increasingly bulldozed for strip malls, wider highways and suburban development, our preservation of the grounds will become increasingly important.


Later this week I will take you inside the house with the second part of KDM's interview, so stay tuned! (meanwhile...there are more photos here).

9 comments:

ArchitectDesign™ said...

just beautiful -love the interview! There was a fascinating look into their lives while living here done in Architectural Digest a few years ago, I should dig that out for you if you haven't already seen it!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview! Regards to KDM!

Gretchen said...

Thank you so much for sharing. Oh, I feel like I was there with you both...

little augury said...

JCB, I have been saving this post to read. I can not wait to see the interiors- Like AD-I've got something about them that should be in your hands- though I am sure you have them full with Lunts. They were marvelous and how important they made this choice and it is being taken care of- My "Lunt" is cooking- right up your alley. GT

Anonymous said...

KDM sounds perfect for the place. It`s like he has always been there.

home before dark said...

I am inspired by the people who live their lives making sure these treasures remain. What an amazing vocation.

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

Isn't Ten Chimneys amazing! I've been there for tours and performances and own Alfred's cookbook. A magical home and how wonderful to have a personal tour like that.

Style Court said...

Janet and KDM --

This was wonderful. So enjoyed the insider's perspective.

Janet said...

I am so glad you all enjoyed this sneak peek at Ten Chimneys! All the credit goes to KDM.