To restore and preserve the buildings, furnishings, collections, and grounds of a national treasure — Ten Chimneys, the estate created by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne; develop Ten Chimneys as a resource and inspiration for American theater and arts; and offer public programs consistent with the Lunts' interests and values while maintaining the integrity and intimacy of this extraordinary estate.
For decades, legendary theater couple Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne entertained actors, writers, designers, directors, and artists at their Ten Chimneys estate in southern Wisconsin. Guests included Helen Hayes, No�l Coward, Alexander Woollcott, Katharine Hepburn, and Laurence Olivier. After Lunt died in 1977 and Fontanne in 1983, the estate was passed to family members until they decided to sell the property in the mid-1990s. Joseph W. Garton, a restaurateur, theater historian, and arts advocate, borrowed money and mobilized support to save the estate from commercial development in 1996.
The Ten Chimneys Foundation was established that year to restore the estate, which houses a large collection of theater memorabilia, including notes from Laurence Olivier, snapshots of the Lunts with the Queen Mother and Charlie Chaplin, and mementos from Helen Hayes and No�l Coward. The foundation raised money to purchase the estate in 1998 and completed a comprehensive restoration in 2002. Ten Chimneys opened its doors to the public in May 2003, shortly before Garton passed away.
The organization currently offers tours of the Ten Chimneys estate and hosts special events at its facilities. In the future, it plans to offer public classes and workshops, master classes for working arts professionals, educational outreach activities, national conferences, retreats, internships, exhibitions, lectures, research opportunities, collaborative projects, and publications.
The highlight of the foundation's history was the public opening of Ten Chimneys last year on May 26 — the date of the Lunts' wedding anniversary. In the seven years leading up to opening day, the foundation raised $12.5 million to restore and preserve the estate. Ten Chimneys was also designated as an official project of , a public-private partnership between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Ten Chimneys Web site describes the , their theater careers, and the they created in Wisconsin. It also offers information on the estate, at Ten Chimneys, and to the organization.
The Ten Chimneys Foundation relies on donations from individuals, foundations, and public agencies. Donors include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.