Wisconsin has done a great job of preserving its history, which dates back to the late 17th century. Meeting groups wanting to include a piece of that history in their events can rent space at these five historic sites, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s 800-acre estate, a former 1920s-era silent movie house, historic mansions and a site that has preserved 26 buildings from the state’s past.
Capitol Theater at Overture Center for the Arts
The historic Capitol Theater opened in 1928 as an opulent silent movie house with a beautiful Grand Barton organ, which underwent a $250,000 restoration in 2019. The theater existed as part of the civic center until the late 1990s, when a Madison resident donated more than $200 million to open what is now the Overture Center of the Arts. The Capitol Theater has seating for 1,089 people, while Overture Hall can house 2,255 people. Overture was built with a beautiful three-level grand lobby space with lots of windows overlooking the state capitol. The lobby can also serve as meeting and event space.
Meeting planners wanting to tap into the history of the Capitol Theater can use the lobby as a vendor sponsor space or reception location for 100 people or a sit-down dinner for 50 guests and then utilize other rooms in the building for breakout sessions. The second level of the Capitol Theater lobby can host receptions for 50. Groups can rent the stage area for meetings, banquets or cabaret-style shows. For a banquet, the stage can hold a maximum of 200 people with a spectacular view of the opulent theater. The Overture lobby can host receptions of 800 people and just over 400 for a sit-down banquet.
Maxwell Mansion is one of the original mansions of Lake Geneva. It was built in 1856 by Chicago surgeon Philip Maxwell, who was one of Lake Geneva’s founding fathers. He only got to live in the home for three and a half years before he passed away. Since then, the mansion has served as everything from a summer home and rental property to a sanitarium and retirement home, bed and breakfast and restaurant.
The new owners of the mansion have turned it into a 28-room boutique hotel with meeting and event space. Guest rooms are available in the mansion, carriage house and stables. The small ballroom can accommodate up to 45 people for a plated dinner or 30 people for a meeting. It is decorated in classic Victorian style with Tiffany blue walls and gold trim on the ceiling and walls. It features a beautiful chandelier, tall ceilings, four windows to let in natural light and mirrors to make the room feel bigger. There are also some small breakout spaces available.
The back terrace is 110 feet long and can be used for dinners or receptions of 100. There are a couple of firepits, and groups can add on fun activities to their rental, including mixology classes or cocktail competitions. Many companies like to do a full property buyout for events where they rent all 28 rooms and have it all to themselves.
The Apothecary Bar onsite creates its own infusions and syrups for craft cocktails. The Speakeasy Bar has a Prohibition-era vibe, and hotel guests need a password to get past the doorman. Corporate groups like to host cocktail receptions there.
Fairlawn Mansion and Museum
Fairlawn Mansion is a Victorian-era home that served as a private residence from 1890 to 1920. It was built for lumber and mining baron Martin Pattison, his wife, Grace, and their six children. The home was completed in 1891 at the cost of $150,000. It features a four-story tower with a widow’s watch overlooking the bay of Lake Superior.
During the summer months, gardens pepper the expansive lawns. As a museum, the first floor of the mansion is fully restored to its former glory, with gilded murals and friezes on the ceiling, a grand entrance hall and open staircase, marble and tile fireplaces, and the original leaded and stained glass windows. The second floor includes access to the master bedroom suite that is furnished much as it was during the Pattison’s residency in the home, and the third floor of the museum details the era from 1920 to 1962 when the mansion served as a home for underprivileged children.
The opulent mansion can be rented for weddings, corporate holiday parties or events. The first floor can accommodate up to 60 people for a seated dinner. If the mansion is used for a reception, it can host up to 100 people using multiple floors.
Heritage Hill State Historical Park
Heritage Hill State Historical Park opened to the public in 1977 on 54 acres within the Green Bay Metropolitan area. The site has 26 original and reconstructed buildings that represent historic and cultural developments relevant to northeastern Wisconsin from the 1600s to the present.
Heritage Hill preserves more than 9,000 artifacts that are displayed in the buildings, including original artwork, books, clothing and furnishings dating from the 17th century. In 2006, the park built the Betsy Hendrickson and Lucyanna Hitch Education Center, which can be used for educational programs, business meetings, receptions and parties. The upper level of the education center can host seated groups up to 150, while the lower level can hold groups up to 80. The historic Town Hall building can host events up to 80 guests and is next to a beautiful green space. The Garden Patio overlooks the Fox River and can accommodate a larger tent and up to 200 seated guests.
Located in the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin, Taliesin is Frank Lloyd Wright’s 800-acre estate that preserves seven buildings that span nearly every decade of his career from the 1890s to the 1950s, including his 37,000-square-foot home, studio and school. The famous architect’s property was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
Originally built in 1911, Taliesin was damaged over the years by two fires, so some areas of the home are older than others. The home has been preserved to the year 1959, which was the year Wright passed away, with all of the furnishings and decorations as they would have been at that time.
Wright was born in Richmond Center, about 20 minutes away from the Wisconsin River valley near Spring Green, where he built his home.
Taliesin can accommodate groups from 15 to 100, depending on the spaces rented. Interior spaces are available in the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center, his sister’s home Tan-y-Deri, Hillside Assembly Hall, Hillside Theater and Taliesin residence. Outdoor spaces are available at Tan-y-Deri and Hillside.