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New photos of the Executive Mansion, and some vintage ones

Monday, Jun 18, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* The Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic Blair Kamin weighs in on the restoration of the Executive Mansion, along with great photos by photog Zbigniew Bzdak (don’t miss the 54-slide gallery, which also includes photos of the mansion pre-restoration)…

Illinois, your house has been put back in order. Not your political house, already in the midst of an ugly gubernatorial campaign. We’re talking about the Executive Mansion, the “People’s House,” which will reopen to the public July 14 after a $15 million renovation that has simultaneously modernized and beautified what used to be the state’s most embarrassing fixer-upper.

An exclusive tour of the mansion and its grounds Thursday, led by Illinois first lady Diana Rauner, revealed much beyond the practical pluses of energy-efficient windows that don’t leak and an elevator that finally provides full access to the home for people who are disabled.

For the first time in years, passers-by actually can see the mansion, no longer hidden by a thicket of trees and shrubs. The home’s stout brick exterior has been skillfully edited, losing ungainly features while gaining richly articulated details. The elegantly revamped interior transcends mere redecoration to tell significant stories about the state, including its role in the Civil War and the World’s Columbian Exposition. And there’s no more peeling plaster in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The irony is that Rauner and her husband, Bruce, the Republican governor, could be forced to leave the home if he loses the November election to Democrat J.B. Pritzker. The Rauners donated $1 million to the privately funded renovation drive, which has raised a little more than $14 million so far, according to Diana Rauner, who chairs the nonprofit that supports the mansion.

The last time I was in the mansion was the summer of 2014, when the state spent $40,000 for a roof patch after leaks threatened the historical bedrooms and upper floors. I remember loving the wallpaper that had been peeling (the fourth slide in my story), and am glad to see it repaired in the Trib’s photo gallery. It was before Gov. Rauner moved in, of course, and put a renewed focus on the disrepair of the mansion as a metaphor for Illinois writ large.

* The Tribune’s really cool Instagram account, @vintagetribune, also posted a quartet of old photos of the mansion last night…

| Scroll through for 4 photos | The Illinois Executive Mansion, or the “People’s House,” will reopen to the public July 14, 2018, after a $15 million renovation that has simultaneously modernized and beautified what used to be the state’s most embarrassing fixer-upper. Here are four historical photos of the mansion. 1) Former Governor Len Small, left, stands next to the new Governor of Illinois, Louis L. Emmerson, right, on the front porch of the Governor's Mansion in Springfield during Emmerson's inauguration festivities in 1929. 2) The Governor's Mansion in Springfield in 1933. 3) The dining room at the Governor's Mansion in 1949. The image of the ghostly woman is a result of a long exposure. 4) The living room at the Governor's Mansion in 1949, complete with a resting dog. View more photos and read commentary on the renovation by Blair Kamin here: #vintagespringfield #governorsmansion #springfield #IllinoisGovernor #govrauner

A post shared by Vintage Tribune (@vintagetribune) on

- Posted by Hannah Meisel        

  1. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 3:11 pm:

    I’ll tip my cap and say thank you to Bruce and Diana Rauner for leading this restoration. In my opinion, this was his greatest accomplishment and will be his most (only?) positive legacy.

    If only he took the rest of his job as seriously as this one.

  2. - Sugar Corn - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 3:20 pm:

    All the mansion-related pomp feels discordant and kind of gross, really. Doesn’t matter that it was “all” private money.

    For sure, this project has puffed up the already well-puffed egos of an elite group of mansion fundraisers and occupants.

    Meanwhile, in Illinois… there’s been a lot of needless suffering.

  3. - L.A. - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 3:35 pm:

    The Mansion looks great and I second 47th Ward on Rauner’s only accomplishment. However, I can’t imagine that the exterior/landscaping will be done in time for the Bicentennial celebration. Still looks like a lot of work left to be completed.

  4. - Annonin' - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 3:53 pm:

    who is that Durkie and NoTaxBill waiting for their weekly allowance from GovJunk

  5. - Amalia - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 4:34 pm:

    every time some project is funded with private money in the millions, I wonder what permanent good could have been done with that money if we could get private donations for literacy classes, mental health services,…..

  6. - Practical Politics - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 4:36 pm:

    “Lop eared Lou” Emmerson!

  7. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 4:55 pm:

    Photo Caption:
    “Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan await their first swearing-in ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion, date unknown”

    To the Post, kudos to the Rauners, the donors, and the architects/contractors on this job. Ignore the whiners.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 18, 18 @ 4:58 pm:

    I appreciate the RaunerS commitment to the mansion and all the hard work to get the building restored to its glory.

    Thank you.

  9. - Rabid - Tuesday, Jun 19, 18 @ 5:47 am:

    Mixed messages is it the executive mansion still, peoples house or govenors mansion by executive order from the executive mansion. Isn’t it ironic

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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* *** UPDATED x2 *** Emanuel/Emmanuel
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* Yesterday's stories

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