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After $15 million update, the Governor’s Mansion closes for more renovations

The historic estate finished a pricey renovation in 2018

A large brick mansion for the governor of Illinois with a fountain in the foreground and lots of landscaped trees, bushes, and greenery. AP

The Illinois Governor’s Mansion has needed millions in repairs since 2015, and now Gov. J.B. Pritzker will fund a few hundred thousand dollars more for renovations to the historic Springfield estate.

The governor will spend about $850,000 covering the cost of tile repairs on the first floor, remodeling guest bedrooms and bathrooms, and updating plumbing, according to reporting by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Italianate-style mansion was originally designed by architect John M. Van Osdel, but it’s been altered or added onto at least five times, according to the governor’s office and historical records. In 1855, the commission for the mansion cost the state $18,000. Osdel is also responsible for the designs of Chicago’s first City Hall and the Cook County Courthouse.

A history of the mansion can begin to read more like a list of maintenance issues and much-needed repairs. Even after millions in renovations, there’s still more to fix. Most recently in 2018, then-Governor Bruce Rauner and his wife Diana completed a $15 million renovation funded through private donations to fix the roof, water damage, the elevator, and HVAC system.

The mansion is one of the oldest continuously occupied governor’s residences in the country. In 1889, it was remodeled in a Victorian-style, the red pressed brick was painted white to imitate the White House, and a portico was added. In 1917, it was remodeled again, this time back to its original Italianate style.

In the ’60s the house fell into such disrepair that some called for an entirely new governor’s mansion to be built. But then-Governor Richard Ogilvie and his wife Dorothy argued against this and worked on a $3 million restoration effort beginning in 1971. Referencing photos from the Illinois State Historical Library, architecture firm Graham O’Shea and Wisnosky worked on preserving the original floor plan while adding private living quarters to the south. In 1976, the estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Maintenance and renovations are now the responsibility of the nonprofit Illinois Executive Mansion Association. The association works on fundraising to furnish the mansion with period pieces. The latest renovations will require a closure from Wednesday, October 9 until Friday, November 22, but will open back up in time for the holiday season.

A Georgian interior with sweeping staircase in a foyer, leading to side rooms with chairs, painting, and a musical harp. There are detailed moldings and neoclassical columns. Photo courtesy Landmarks Illinois