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Blueprints of the Paine mansion


Three centuries of evolving English styles accentuated by Wisconsin’s beauty

Nathan and Jessie Paine created an estate that reflects pride in their English heritage and Wisconsin home. In 1925, they commissioned Bryant Fleming, an architect from Ithaca, New York, to design a Tudor Revival-style country estate. Both Nathan and Jessie’s ancestors were English, which likely inspired their selection of this architectural style and much of the interior design and furnishings.

Architect Bryant Fleming varied the house’s interior and exterior architectural features, such as arches, doorways, columns, window panes, and chimney stacks, to give it the appearance of being built over three centuries in evolving English styles. Much of the estate’s architecture, décor, artworks, and landscaping derives from English country houses while utilizing and accentuating the natural resources and beauty of Wisconsin.

Nathan Paine’s Influence

Mr. Paine played an instrumental role in most details of the estate’s design, décor, and landscaping. He had a keen sense for quality in materials and craftsmanship and acquired the finest domestic stone and wood for the main house. Nearly all of the stonework is Kasota limestone, quarried in Minnesota. In areas inside the house where the limestone is polished, it has a sheen resembling marble. The interior woodwork, mostly of oak and walnut, benefited from Mr. Paine’s profound appreciation for lumber and craftsmanship. Although the mansion was designed to look centuries old, it is in fact a thoroughly modern structure. Beneath the limestone and wooden beams, a steel and concrete substructure renders the building fireproof, which Mr. Paine felt was vitally important. 

Designing and Furnishing the Interior

The furnishings on the first floor were carefully chosen by Nathan and Jessie with the direction of decorator Phelps Jewett. Because Mr. Paine believed in the quality of the craftsmanship of his time, many of the furnishings are reproductions he commissioned specifically for this house. Their styles mimic various historical periods; some pieces are even upholstered in antique textiles to further the illusion of age. The second floor rooms were not completed during Mr. Paine’s lifetime and only partially finished during Mrs. Paine’s. When the museum first opened, these rooms were not on view. They have been completed or modified over the years according to the Paine’s original blueprints and designs, as well as to display Paine family heirlooms. 

Furniture and artwork displayed in the Great Hall.
Phil Weston
The stair hall of the Paine mansion.
Phil Weston

For Living and Sharing

From the beginning, the Paines’ ultimate goal was to design an estate showcasing exceptional architecture, furnishings, art, and natural beauty that would eventually be open to the public for educational and cultural purposes. Although they never lived in the mansion, it was designed to first serve as Nathan and Jessie’s home, thus the interiors reflect the traditions of their time. First floor rooms were designed to impress and entertain visitors, and included an area open to the public as an art gallery. Upper floors were reserved for private family activities and sleeping rooms, typically closed to all but the closest friends and family. Families of the Paines’ stature also would have employed live-in servants and accommodated them in simply designed, utilitarian parts of the house. Public, private, and service areas are all found in the Paine mansion.