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    Oakbrook-Esser Studio and GalleryOakbrook Esser Studio & Gallery Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
    This fabulous studio and gallery is famous for its stained glass, especially around the world, when churches, cathedrals, castles or Hollywood mansions need repairs done to their famous and beautiful stained glass windows. Like an example of the angel that was immersed in four inches of water, that had been a nine foot angel, and now lay in pieces, with brown feathered wings, cream colored gown and pastel flowers that encircled her head for many decades, and is now being gently, lovingly pried apart in a big trough by artisans at the Oakbrook Esser Studios in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. The angel was made in the Tiffany Studios in New York in 1892 and needed cleaning, replacement pieces or some other matter that would need the best artisans in the nation to remedy her needs. Once finished, the angel wouldn't fly away, but she would go back into the center of the 13 foot diameter rose window that she had centered for more than a century in Oshkosh and then reinstalled in the Trinity Episcopal Church. This is what Paul Phelps and his artisans do day in and day out, restoring the beautiful Tiffany windows, or any stained glass windows in the world. The rainbow is composed of the colors; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, but this studio orders its glass from their main supplier, Lamberts in Germany, using a palette of 5000 colors. Whenever someone walks into the gallery that occupies the front of their studio, it is a moment of indecision since there is a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes and other visual delights, imagining going to places where stained glass windows had been used to teach, mourn a bit about the mass production that has overtaken our world and environment, and then look into the future. The studio has been honored for the past quarter of a century as being the only licensed vendor by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to restore and replace the master architect's windows. The idea really begin with Olgivanna, Wright's widow, who decided that in order to help fund her husband's legacy and share his masterpieces with the people, everything would have to be done in a particular way and with the approval of the foundation. Originally, in the 1980s, there had been four companies picked; with Tiffany's doing the silver work, Schumaker did the fabrics, rugs and wallpaper, with Cassina of Italy doing the furniture and Oakbrook Esser doing the glass work. Today, only Schumaker and Oakbrook are still doing the work.

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    KnollwardKnollward Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
    Knollward is the finest mansion in the Midwest and is actually for sale right now if you have the asking price of $5.75 million. This magnificent estate is the former residence of Marjorie Montgomery Ward that was built in 1928, and it is one of those fantastic places that you really have to see it to believe it. The mansion has 30 rooms, with 8 bedrooms, 10 and a half bathrooms and a 4.5 car garage; that totals 15,222 square feet. The magnificent house has gables, dormers, oriel, French provincial windows, black marble, wrought iron, cypress beams, gold plating and turreted outlines framing and 355 feet of shoreline on Lac La Belle; and don't forget there are seven fireplaces to help keep you warm on those cold winter nights. Lighting is provided by 17 chandeliers, and the rest you'll have to get yourselves. This was really the summer retreat for Marjorie, who had been the adopted daughter and only child of Aaron Montgomery and Betty Ward, who had founded the nationally famous mail order firm and first wishbook. Sitting on the east bank of Lac La Belle, the mansion has a spectacular view of the surrounding area, which is well known for its picturesque lakes and historical integrity. Aaron's life is a fascinating one as he began working at the age of 14 for 25 cents a day cutting staves for a barrel stave factory and then later made 30 cents a day working at a kiln making bricks. Aaron would retire at age 50, a very rich man, but seven years before he did that, he came to Oconomowoc and bought Colonel Durand's 300 acre horse breeding farm and renamed it La Belle Knoll, and made more money as a horse breeder and showman. The couple never had been able to have children, so in 1892, when Mrs. Ward's sister died in childbirth, they went to Michigan and adopted her daughter, who would become Marjorie Ward. The story after that is a marvelous one and should be read and appreciated since it would turn out to become a real Cinderella story.

April 28, 2011