Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Illinois Executive Mansion

The Illinois Executive Mansion is the official residence of the Governor of Illinois since 1855.  The Georgian style Mansion recently underwent a three million dollar renovation.  The Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.  The third oldest continuously occupied Governor's Mansion in the nation, it is a museum, a home, and a treasure.
Our friends, George and Suzanne Foster live in Macomb, Illinois and spend a few months in Mexico during the winter.  When we mentioned our trip to Harrisburg for Phil's high school reunion, they invited us to visit.  George arranged for us to stay in the Governor's Mansion in Springfield for two nights.
The Mansion's grounds are part of that rich history.  Under direction of Horticulturist Harry Lewis, the Mansion's park-like setting of shrubs,trees, colorful annuals and perennials make it a favorite destination for thousands of visitors every year.
The entrance gate from 4th street, that we used, is lined with sweet gum trees.
This exquisite elliptical stairway leads to spacious rooms decorated in British regency style on the first and second floor.
Upon arrival, we were given a private tour by the Mansion butler, Thad.  The Mansion gives tours three days each week.  The bedrooms on the second floor are blocked off with velvet ropes and people are not permitted past the door.  There is signage everywhere to tell you no photography is permitted.  Thad removed the velvet ropes and told us we were allowed to walk around and go anywhere we wished on the ground floor, first and second and we could take all the photos we wished.  I walked all around several times because there is so much to see.  It was an eerie feeling all alone on the first floor with the ballroom, state dining room, library and all the parlors.
Our bedroom, The Lincoln Bedroom, is full of history.  The furniture came from the Lincoln home, including the lamps on the mantel, etched glass and crystal. The bed belonged to Abe and he put it in storage in Springfield to be used when he returned from Washington but he didn't return alive.  Rod Blagojevich complained on his first trip to the Mansion that they put him in the smallest room and the terrible bed in the Lincoln bedroom.  We didn't think it was small and were very comfortable in the Lincoln bed.  I doubt Mr. Blagojevich is that comfortable in his new quarters in Federal Prison in Englewood, Colorado.
                                     Most of the bedrooms on the 2nd floor have sitting rooms.
 The bedrooms and parlors are maintained as they may have looked in the 19th century.  Most of the furniture is Lincoln-era.
                       The Mansion has a collection of priceless art work such as this Franciso Goya.
The intricately carved furniture of Carthage farmer, William J, Bartels.  Bartel fireplace.
                                                        The Bartels' hand carved bed.
The mansion is for the most part, a historic site.  The Governor and his family are not expected to actually reside in the main mansion itself.  Rather, a 7 room private apartment on the second floor of the mansion (entrance next to Lincoln Bedroom) is provided for the governor and his family.  Many past Governors have resided full time in the Mansion such as Governor and Mrs. Ryan who were responsible for many of the beautiful renovations.  Mrs. Ryan passed away in 2011 and Mr. Ryan now resides in Federal prison in Indiana.
David gifted us with a copy of  At Home With Illinois Governors,  a social history of the Illinois Executive Mansion  1855-2003.  It was written by Dan Monroe and Lura Lynn Ryan, First Lady of Illinois 1999-2003.  I have really enjoyed reading it.  I can imagine the stories Dave could tell after 18 years in the Mansion.
                                      Phil always thought he belonged at the governor's desk.
                                                     A Tiffany light fixture.
TheYates bedroom (across the hall from us) contains the original rosewood furniture with marble tops, velvet upholstery and silk damask curtains. The wallpapers were copied from the original patterns. Catherine Yates held glittering receptions in the midst of the civil war, insisting that the social amenities of civilization be preserved. She witnessed inaugural ceremonies for her husband and son as Illinois governors.  Some believe her spirit haunts the Mansion.  I heard a man and woman talking and laughing outside our door.  I thought I had slept late but the clock showed 4:a.m.  I went back to sleep thinking it was inconsiderate of them to make so much noise at that hour. The Governor's living quarters (closed to the public) is the door next to the Lincoln bedroom.  I asked David at breakfast if someone had come in early and he said we were the only people on the second floor.  He said this happens all the time, Mrs. Yates is very festive some nights.  They do have security present 24/7 and cameras.

This is a reading corner of the Lincoln Bedroom.  I kept thinking about all the people who have spent the night here.
 
                                             
                                                    Intricately, hand carved Bartels chair.
This inlaid wooden table with Lincoln images was a gift to President Lincoln from Robert Todd.  The Lincoln family gifted it to the Mansion.
The elegant Victorian mirrors in the state dining room belonged to Governor Yates.  He let them remain in the Mansion when he left office.
The first floor has numerous parlors and have an open concept that makes it possible to entertain large groups in one area.  There is a grand ballroom that is used many times during the year.
                                             The silver service typically used for teas.

                                    Baccarat Chandeliers, one of the many treasures in the Mansion.
                             There are many pieces of priceless art, such as the portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln.

  The china cabinets hold the state's china and also a Meissen platter that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln.
                                             The 32' dining table in the state dining room.
The library was designed and built by Monte Holl of Illinois and the walnut paneling comes from Illinois forests. The fireplace is a work of art.
The Mansions ground floor is the principal entryway with many antiques, priceless period furniture, paintings and beautiful objects such as Limoges.
                                            Hand Carved sofa from the Bartels Collection.
                                   Antique set acquired to complement the Bartels collection.
                       We used the ground floor living room/lounge for wi-fi connection and TV.
Both mornings I sat at the kitchen table with coffee and chatted with the executive chef, Mike Lantz, as he prepared for the day.  They cooked for three days to prepare for the 200 people garden party.
We were privileged to enjoy an incredible dinner of filet with a demi-glace (that takes 2 days of preparation) served in one of the formal dining rooms.
                            Executive chef, Mike, and our butler,Thad, with Suzanne and George.
The Mansion's curator, David Bourland, is a friend of Suzanne and George Foster's.  He has been at the Mansion for 18 years and runs a tight ship.  He made a wonderful breakfast of biscuits, sausage and gravy.
Sous chef, Ryan, was busy in the kitchen also as they were preparing for a garden party fund raiser the day that we left.
   Both mornings we enjoyed a big breakfast together in the kitchen before a day of sight-seeing.
                                We did use the elevator but I had to go down the stairs at least once.

Our stay in the Illinois Governor's Mansion with Suzanne and George Foster will always be a "treasured memory".

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