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Ellison Wonderland

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"Door Knobs"
(links to 'The Kingdom so Delicious')


Silver Poplar Studios, LLC

1519 E. Door Bluff Road
Ellison Bay, WI 54210
Phone: 920.854.2106
Fax: 920.854.7160

The home of Jim and Carole Maronek in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin, is a collection of antique buildings set in fifteen acres of woods and meadows, unified by a Russian theme.
(Carole's parents were from Byelorussia.) The centerpiece is their barn, built in 1998 and registered as "Ellison Wonderland LLC" itself a collection of reclaimed barns and salvaged materials.

The original log portion of the main house at Silver Poplar Studios (the "dacha," or summer home), was one of the first buildings in northern Door County. It served as a logging office in the 1850's. A recent remodeling uncovered a rafter salvaged from a shipwreck containing nails forged in early 1800. When the property was logged-out, it became a farm which, due to its bumper crop of stones, was ultimately abandoned. The property was acquired by a family of musicians from Milwaukee, and the derelict out-buildings were reclaimed to make an artists' retreat for their friends in the 1930's. One log barn became an art studio; and the granary and the horse barn became cottages.

Over the years, concert pieces and ballets have been composed in the cottages, music lessons and recitals have been performed, and paintings produced in the studios. Groups of actors studying improvisational theatre have regularly lived here, as well as performers rehearsing for local and Broadway productions. Writers have created their manuscripts, stage designs have been drafted, and fiber artists have dyed their wool here.

Some features of the property include the main garden with a "kokotchnik" (Russian onion dome) gazebo; the "trompe l'oeil" (fool-the-eye) architectural painting, inside and out, of the "Jzitnitsa," (granary); and the "Firebird," built in the Russian "izba" (cabin) style. The "Contraption," a welded-steel construction near the entry, was designed as the feature of a stage setting. The property was long-ago named after the forty, majestic Silver Poplar trees which once stood on the grounds. A few remain, as does the name and the mission of providing a retreat for the creative arts.

The nucleus of the barn is a Slovak log building built in 1892 near Francis Creek. This is now an art gallery. Added to it, is a post-and-beam structure (the Moore barn), now a space for entertainment, trunk shows, workshops and, especially, big Russian parties.

Attached to that is a rare, wooden silo, rescued from a Wisconsin farm, which serves as an entrance and has been described as "a vertical Zen garden." Still another huge barn, contributed by Habitat for Humanity from their property near Valmy, provided spectacular forty-foot beams, weathered siding, and supplemental materials, allowing the addition of a garden room.
Large, arched windows, from a convent in Sturgeon Bay, provide ample light and views of the wild-flower meadows.

Parts of other barns, as well, have been incorporated: one from Gurnee, Illinois, where "Great America" now stands; one from New Jersey, belonging to Carole's parents; and fragments of various Door County barns which have vanished. There are Victorian architectural pieces blended into the mix, and for a touch of sophistication, plaster ornaments from the old Granada Theatre in Chicago are tucked into the rafters.

Surrounding everything are the extensive gardens, which Carole has nurtured into exuberant, award-winning displays, framed by wildflowers and towering Silver Poplar trees.


A Russian fairytale cottage opens at "Ellison Wonderland"
Silver Poplar Studios features gallery of works by artist Jim Maronek
Door County Compass June 17, 2006

Text & Original Illustrations Jim Maronek, A DOORABLE ENTERPRISE ™
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