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: https://trib.in/2t4AaQG #vintagespringfield #governorsmansion #springfield #IllinoisGovernor #govrauner