Pegi Christiansen: Distance 8
This is the eighth in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email email@example.com and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”
Last year Lynn Bartkus contacted Lynden about having a visit exchange. She is a docent at Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot, the estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, widely regarded as the greatest husband-and-wife acting team in the history of American theater.
On May 19 I drove to Ten Chimneys for the first time, about the same distance as my home is to Lynden. On my way out, I wondered whether there would be any similarities between Ten Chimneys and Lynden. It turns out there are plenty!
--The Lunts (1922) and the Bradleys (1926) married around the same time.
--They both sought country retreats near Milwaukee in what were then rural areas.
--Both tamed and transformed the land they bought. For the Bradleys, it was turning a farm into a pastoral landscape. For the Lunts, Lynne explained they “created a retreat for friends and family.” Lynn told me the Lunts let guests pick the breakfast tray they wanted, plus what, where, and when the meal would be served so they would feel pampered.
--Both developed well-tended gardens.
--The Bradleys put in a pond and built a bathhouse for swimming (Mrs. Bradley was an avid swimmer). Lunt and Fontanne installed an L-shaped swimming pool with a dramatic pool house. (Every building and room on the property has the appearance and feeling of a stage set.)
As you can tell from the top picture, Lynn, whose mother thought Fontanne personified glamour and named Lynn after her, gave an animated two-hour tour of the sixty acres at Ten Chimneys. Lynn trained to be a docent five years ago. I told her how much I enjoyed her tour, and Lynn said she learned that people wanted to hear fun stories by shadowing other docents.
A week later, on May 26, Lynn met me at Lynden in the morning. Rain was predicted, but it held off until the moment we said goodbye.
Early on in our walk around Lynden, we stood by the birch stand near the east end of the pond. Lynn brought up the birches at Ten Chimneys. She said they are a Scandinavian good luck symbol and are often given as wedding presents. Lynn suggested both the Lunts and Bradleys “loved life and nature.”
It takes Lynn an hour to drive from her home to Ten Chimneys, but she does not mind the distance. She uses the time to see Wisconsin and often takes back roads.
She likes that you can wander at Lynden and votes for not introducing paths. Once you have paths, she finds people tend to assume they should “Keep Off the Grass,” whether there are signs or not.
Lynn has a very active Facebook presence and uses it primarily to post pictures of grandchildren for family members who don’t live nearby. Even though it sometimes seems intrusive, Lynn thinks social media invasions of privacy are here to stay.
Her eight grandchildren live in Southeastern Wisconsin. She wants to bring them to Lynden. I showed her one of the sculptures children like best, George Sugarman’s Trio. “It’s like the spine of a whale,” she said. After the visit she emailed to tell me how she delighted in “the lushness, the sculptures, the pond—to relax and breathe the fresh air.” I’m so glad Lynn contacted Lynden last year. Since visiting Ten Chimneys, I find myself asking everybody if they’ve ever been there. Whether you are a theater fan or not, it’s definitely worth signing up for a tour.