Fairlawn Mansion sits looking out over the Superior, Wisconsin
harbor, Barker's Island
, Lake Superior
and the hills of Duluth, Minnesota
. Fairlawn was built in 1889 by Martin Pattison, a wealthy timber and mining baron
who was also Superior's second mayor. Pattison bought a full city block of land on the northeast side of the city. There he built a home for his wife, Grace, and family. The Pattison's lived there until the death of Martin in 1918. Since 1963 the 42-room Victorian-style, Queen Anne mansion
has been home to the Fairlawn Museum.
Martin Pattison was a charitable man. He bought hundreds of acres of northern Wisconsin wilderness on the Black River to prevent a hydro-electric dam from destroying its pristine beauty, then handed it over to the state of Wisconsin to become Pattison State Park. After his death his wife continued his philanthropy; she moved out of Fairlawn and instructed that it be used as an orphanage. For 42 years Fairlawn became the Superior's Children's Home and Refuge Center -- home to countless hundreds of orphaned children and unwed mothers.
By 1961 orphanages were becoming passé in America and Fairlawn was falling into disrepair as the Children's Home Board had not been able to afford the expensive upkeep. The decision was made to close the orphanage and Fairlawn's fate seemed destined to be the wrecking ball - because Grace Pattison's will stated that it should be used as an orphanage or torn down.
The city of Superior was willing to restore Fairlawn and the Douglas County Historical Society wanted to make Fairlawn its home, but Grace's will stood in the way. So, the Superior city attorney went to court and argued that rather than being torn down, Fairlawn should revert back to the Pattison heirs. The courts agreed and the Pattison heirs then turned the title for Fairlawn over to the City of Superior.
In the 1990's restoration efforts at Fairlawn attracted the attention of philanthropist Tom Jeffris. Through a generous gift from the Jeffris Foundation a $1.6 million restoration project was begun to return Fairlawn’s exterior and first floor interior to their original splendor. The restoration efforts were rewarded when Fairlawn received the Victorian Society Preservation Commendation Award in 2000.
Among Fairlawn's exhibits is one of the oldest known Psychographs, or phrenology machine, built by its inventor and Superior native Henry Lavery. Fairlawn has also been featured on the A&E televison program American Castles.