I’ll never forget Mary and my first sight of Bayfield. It was a sunny, warm day in June, 1969, when Mary and I drove in from the south and were mesmerized by the lake. Sparkling like a million diamonds, we were spellbound. The town was quiet, not the tourist haven it has become. There were vacant buildings and many “For Sale” signs. We drove the streets, exclaiming about historic house after house, the steep hills giving everyone a view. We stopped at the Community Lunch for a bite, visited Jim and George’s Antique Shop, the Pot Shop of Bob Eckels, the Kerr Gallery.
The Boutin Mansion, now called the Chateau, was for sale by Mose Theno, the nuns still living there, and we knocked on the door. A Nun was very cordial and showed us around the first floor, which was very dark…. both from the darkly stained wood as well as the layers of curtains over the windows. We were back outside almost before my eyes had adjusted to the lack of light, and I can’t say that my focus was on the visual as much as the emotional rendering of that visit.
At the time, we were engulfed in the process of renovating a Victorian home near Madison that had been beaten up during 30 years as a nursing home. The Chateau in Bayfield was a much grander home, on a magnificent site, with few of the signs of disrespect we were dealing with. Try as we might, the envy was palpable.