The Illinois Governor’s Mansion is the third-oldest, continuously occupied executive residence in the United States. Designed by Chicago’s first professional architect, John Van Osdel, the 18,000 sf Italianate structure was completed in 1855. Modified several times over its 163-year history, the property was significantly altered during a 1970s renovation and addition that more than doubled its size. Since then, deferred maintenance caused the mansion to fall into disrepair, prompting Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin to call it "...the state's most embarrassing fixer-upper."
Historic photos show the evolution of the mansion's exterior appearance from its completion in 1855 through the early 20th century. In 2015, VHA was tapped by Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner to direct a major renovation. The $15M project was funded entirely by private donations.
The renovation includes extensive interior, exterior and system repairs, with the goal of returning architectural dignity to the Mansion. New sheet metal work recreated the ca. 1899 rooftop balustrade, building cornice and north entry porch trim. The site’s overgrown landscape was cleared and the public entry was re-oriented toward downtown Springfield, allowing for prominent views of the Mansion.
Bifurcated, curving walks create gracious and accessible paths that offer sweeping views across the site on the way to the new visitor entry. The East Garden contains an event lawn and adjacent formal garden with restored fountain.
Exterior masonry was restored with salvaged brick and Missouri limestone closely matching the original Joliet stone trim. Energy efficient and historically correct windows replaced non-original sash and mechanical systems were renewed or replaced. New sheet metalwork features pressed zinc details. The finished project earned a LEED Silver designation from the US Green Building Council.
Interior work included a new elevator, accessible restrooms and restoration of public rooms throughout. The first and second floors were renovated with new carpet, wall-coverings and lighting. Besides hosting public events, these ceremonial rooms will be used as unique venue for changing art and history installations.
Ground floor entry hall with view into the Orientation Center, featuring interactive exhibits explaining the Mansion’s history and the governors that have resided there. The renovated Grand Stair is highlighted by encaustic tile at the ground floor. The project earned Landmark Illinois' 2019 Richard H. Driehaus award for rehabilitation.
Landscape Architect: Massie Massie & Associates
Structural Engineer: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Mechanical Engineer: Henneman Engineering, Inc
Lighting: Randy Burkett Lighting Design
General Contractor: R.D. Lawrence Construction Co., Ltd.
Photographer: Eric Hausman