Starts of stage and screen frequented Ten Chimneys Estate , a National Historic Landmark that was home to Broadway greats Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. The iconic couple, who married in 1922, appeared together in over 24 plays and, more recently, on a postage stamp. The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street in New York City is – of course – named for them, an indication of their prowess on the big stage.
Tours of Ten Chimneys are available from May through mid-November of the grounds and the house. Furnishings, hand-painted murals, décor, art collections and other memorabilia are everywhere, and yes, the house does have 10 chimneys. Even the Gift Shop is unique: from early 20th century hat styles to jewelry to Noël Coward quotes adorning black t-shirts, there’s plenty of interesting things to check out.
Guests to Ten Chimneys over the years the Lunts lived there included Katharine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, and most infamously Noël Coward, probably the Lunt’s most frequent Ten Chimneys guest. Coward was known for many things, including some of the most famous plays ever written. Today the theatre in Westminster, London where he first performed in 1920 is named the Noël Coward Theatre, which was named in his honor in 2006. He acted in many plays and also performed intelligence work for the British Secret Service during World War II (in fact, he was approached by neighbor Ian Fleming in the 1960s to play the villan’s role in Dr. No, which he turned down… with the phrase “Dr. No? No. No. No.”) Meanwhile on the Ten Chimney grounds, he was known for walking through the house in the buff on his way to go for a swim because he liked to skinny dip in the pool, causing at least one cook to quit. Others presumably stared or did double-takes at various times.
Part of Ten Chimneys’ Museum Store and reception area includes a variety of things to see, including a stage to check out, backstage samples, a Dick Cavett video interview of the couple from 1970, furniture and more; the stage is above. And of the many things available at Ten Chimneys, you can buy specialty shot glasses with “the great drinkers” like Yeats, Wilde, Thomas and Fields. Just don’t use them while State Trunk Touring, okay??
You’ll find Ten Chimneys (and tell them you’re doing a State Trunk Tour!) on Highway 83 in Genesee Depot in southwestern Waukesha County, about 10 miles south of I-94 and 10 miles north of I-43. Tours of Ten Chimneys are a must, and reservations a day or more in advance is strongly recommended. They also have numerous events and dinners to check out.
Ten Chimneys Estate Address:
S43W31575 Depot Road
Genesee Depot, WI 53127