The Paine Estate
Tour the Mansion
Main Entry and Stair Hallway
The Main Entry and Stair Hallway, with its magnificently hand-carved oak staircase, form the central corridor of the house. Although this space does not represent one specific historical period, the staircase’s acorn and oak leaf motif was popular in the 1500s. The staircase was hand-carved in the Michigan workshop of Alois Lang, a Bavarian-born master craftsman. The Main Entry to the house features three sets of doors and the ceiling of the entry’s foyer is vaulted in a style reminiscent of Gothic churches.
Gentlemen visitors would have been escorted to this room, which is connected by a passageway to Mr. Paine’s office. The impressive stone, wood, and plaster architectural features of this room were influenced by England’s Jacobean period (1660-1688). The rose, a focal point in the plaster ceiling decoration, was a symbol of the English Tudor family, and is a decorative motif employed throughout the estate. The wood paneling is walnut. Like much of the mansion’s woodwork, the Paines left it unvarnished to highlight its natural beauty.
As the “living room” of the house, the Great Hall was designed as the central space for leisure and entertainment. Halls like this descended from sparsely furnished rooms in medieval castles, which over time became more comfortable and elegant. The features of this room are strongly influenced by the Tudor and Elizabethan styles of the 16th century. The mezzanine’s linen-fold paneling, which simulates linen hung on walls, was hand-carved by Paine Lumber Company craftsmen.
Ladies Reception Room
Located directly across from the original entrance, Mrs. Paine would have received her guests in this room. The adjoining powder room and washroom provided an elegant space for ladies to freshen up upon arrival. French influences are evident in this room, particularly in the style of Louis Philippe (1830-1848). The chairs and settee reflect the ornate Louis XV style, but they are not gilded, as the Paine’s preferred natural wood. Although French styles predominate, the impressive Georgian white marble fireplace was originally part of an English home.
Mr. Paine envisioned this room as an enclosed porch linking the outside landscape and Wisconsin’s changing seasons with a garden-like interior. The Breakfast Room’s early 20th-century American influences create a setting that is less formal than other first floor rooms. The tinted glass panes in the windows, here and throughout the mansion, were created to look as if they were made hundreds of years ago, with varying bubbles, streaks, and color.
The Georgian period (1714-1837), the “golden age” of English country houses, provided the stylistic influence for the formal Dining Room. The walls are paneled in walnut, and the elaborately carved boxwood and pine swag over the fireplace was purchased from an estate in England. The foyer’s Corinthian-style columns are made from Vermont marble and the paneling is oak. The doorway to the unfinished kitchen is now a display case for decorative art objects.
The Paines intended this room to be used by Jessie’s sister, Mary Kimberly Shirk. Jessie and Mary’s grandfather, John Robbins Kimberly, brought the canopied bed and dresser to Wisconsin from New York in 1849. The chandelier and fireplace are from the house of Nathan’s grandfather, Edward L. Paine. The bedroom has an adjoining dressing room and a washroom, which is completely surfaced in marble.
Belter Sitting Room
Initially planned as a bedroom, this room now features exquisitely carved furniture by John Henry Belter, made in the 1850s. The furniture, fireplace, and chandelier came from the Edward L. Paine house, where Nathan and Jessie lived. When that house was demolished in 1955, Jessie supervised reassembling some of its furnishings here to create a Victorian parlor setting.
Mrs. Paine’s Dressing Room
Mrs. Paine’s Dressing Room, or boudoir, was conveniently located next to the Master Bedroom. Its French influences are reminiscent of those present in the Ladies Reception Room on the first floor. The room is paneled in bleached walnut with and features a carved border of acanthus flowers. The bay window provides an impressive view of the front lawn, which could be enjoyed from a window seat heated by interior water pipes.
This room was to serve as Nathan and Jessie’s bedroom, but it was not completed during their lifetimes. In 1993 a substantial bequest of exceptional 18th and 19th-century English and French furniture from the estate of Arthur Liebman of Lake Forest, Illinois, provided appropriate furnishings for this room. Drawings by the Paines’ decorator Phelps Jewett were used to arrange the room in a character similar to the original plans.
Nathan and Jessie Paine always intended their estate to be open to the public. This large gallery was designed to showcase their art collection as well as changing exhibitions. Its location and entranceway would have allowed the public to visit while the Paines occupied other parts of the house. Verona marble columns, Macassar ebony doors, and ornate iron gates provide an impressive and dramatic entrance for the gallery.
Mr. Paine’s Office
Banta Corporation Visitor Orientation Room
This space was originally designed as an office for Mr. Paine and features exquisite woodcarvings of the rose and leaf motif.
Jessie Kimberly Room
The house’s kitchen was to occupy this space, but since the Paines never lived in the house, it was not completed. The room is now used for meetings.
Most large country houses included sitting or dining rooms for the house’s staff. The Paines planned for this room to serve this purpose. It is currently used as a gallery.
George Paine Nevitt Library
This area was designed as three separate bedrooms for the house’s staff. It is currently used for meetings and holds a collection of books about architecture, art, and horticulture (viewable by appointment).
The back stairway was to be used by the house’s staff. Stylistically, service wings tended to be very plain since they were either work areas or accommodations for servants. The stairway would have provided private access to staff living quarters upstairs, the kitchen and sitting room downstairs, and storage areas in the basement.
Helen Farnsworth Mears Gallery
A dressing room and bathroom for Mr. Paine as well as a separate bathroom for Mrs. Paine were part of the original design for this space. These rooms were removed in the late 1970s to create a mezzanine providing access to what is now the Gothic Gallery. The mezzanine is dedicated to the display of sculptures by Helen Farnsworth Mears (1871-1916). Mears was born in Oshkosh and studied in Chicago, New York, and Paris with notable sculptors, including Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Originally intended to serve as an echo chamber for the pipes of an organ
in the Great Hall located directly below, this space remained empty for
many years. It was extensively renovated during the late 1970s and early
1980s to serve as a gallery for decorative objects. All of the stone and
wood construction is new, including the large bay with benches and a window
in the gallery. The Paine commissioned artist Leo Smith, from Fountain City,
Wisconsin, to carve the elaborate Gothic-style arches. The rose window was
created at the Willet Stained Glass Studios of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Many of the symbols in the woodcarvings and window represent the Paine family
and some are present in the original portion of the house, such as the rose,
oak leaf, and acorn.
Family Discovery Gallery
A Billiards Room was part of the Paines’ plan for this room of the lower level. The larger adjoining room was to be a Recreation Room for dancing and other social activities. The rooms now serve as an educational activity area for children.