About the Foundation & Mission
Ten Chimneys Foundation was formed in 1996 to save Ten Chimneys, restore and preserve the estate, and open it to the public as a world-class museum and national resource for theatre and arts education.
In 1996, Joseph W. Garton – a Madison-area restaurateur, theatre historian, and arts advocate – acquired the estate. Mr. Garton then spent the next two years connecting with community and civic leaders and national experts in various fields. A team of national preservation experts performed a Historic Site Analysis and Master Plan. The renowned Wingspread Conference Center of The Johnson Foundation in Racine, Wisconsin, hosted a conference of national leaders in theatre, the arts, and arts education – to help define the role a restored Ten Chimneys could play locally and nationally. In November of 1997, twenty-four prominent civic leaders came together to form the board of trustees of Ten Chimneys Foundation.
In January of 1998, Ten Chimneys Foundation purchased the estate from Mr. Garton at the original purchase price, allowing the Foundation to begin emergency repairs on several roofs. The Foundation then began extensive research and planning for restoration, preservation, and program development – continuing to collaborate with local, regional, and national experts and advisors.
In 1999, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative Lunt-Fontanne postage stamp. Ten Chimneys 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.
Dedicated volunteers, generous donors, and other Foundation leaders made extraordinary strides between the beginning of 2000 and May 26th, 2003 – when Ten Chimneys opened to the public for the first time (on what would have been the Lunts’ 81st wedding anniversary). These accomplishments include:
- Completion of the “The Campaign for Ten Chimneys,” exceeding the ambitious $12.5 million goal by $300,000.
- Completion of the $12.5 million restoration/construction project – on time and $500,000 under budget.
- Comprehensive historic restoration and preservation of Ten Chimneys’ estate and grounds garnering many national and regional awards and kudos.
- Design and construction of the Lunt-Fontanne Program Center to support public access and serve the needs of the regional and national theatre and arts communities.
- Building an extraordinary corps of over 200 volunteers – whose ongoing dedication and passion are integral to the success of the organization.
Ten Chimneys has been carefully restored. Before opening to the public on May 26th, 2003, the Foundation updated the estate to current standards and committed to a particularly ambitious restoration. The goal was not a museum restoration “like new,” but the more challenging “lived in” feel of Ten Chimneys in the 1940s – when Lynn and Alfred led their staff in lavishing T.L.C. on their pride and joy.
The resulting restoration was a partnership between the country’s finest restoration professionals and dedicated volunteers. Conservators repaired 18th Century inlaid furniture, reproduced water-damaged wallpaper, restored the Claggett Wilson murals, replanted gardens, and re-laid flagstone paths. After being trained by professionals, volunteers disassembled, restored, and re-hung chandeliers, reframed pictures, polished brass, weeded gardens, and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. A substantial amount of the restoration was completed by opening day. The work, however, is never truly completed and continues on.
Scores of volunteers now consider Ten Chimneys their home.
You can, too. Read more about volunteer opportunities at Ten Chimneys Foundation.