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Mansion Timeline

  • 1853 - Governor Joel A. Matteson is sworn in as Governor of Illinois.  Finding the current executive residence too small to house his seven children, Governor Matteson urges the legislature to build a residence large enough to entertain and to host state events.
  • 1855 - Construction on the Executive Mansion is completed.  The building was designed by Chicago architect John M. Van Osdel in the Greek style
  • January 10, 1856 - Governor Joel A. Matteson becomes the first Illinois Governor to live in the mansion.  Governor Matteson celebrated the completion of the mansion with an open house reception that the Illinois State Register described as “the gayest assemblage ever marshalled in our city.”
  • April 1871 – Governor Oglesby signs legislation that includes use of the Executive Mansion as part of the governor’s compensation.
  • October 1874 – President Ulysses S. Grant visits Springfield to dedicate the Lincoln Monument in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, and stays in the Executive Mansion.  Governor Beveridge hosts a large reception honoring the President.
  • 1879 – Governor Shelby M. Cullom hosts President Rutherford B. Hayes, General William T. Sherman and First Lady Lucy Hayes at the Executive Mansion.
  • March 14, 1879 – Robert T. Lincoln visits Springfield, joining the Governor for a meal at the mansion.
  • April 13, 1888 – To celebrate the state’s first Arbor Day, seventeen trees are planted on the mansion grounds in honor of the Governors of Illinois.
  • 1889-1890 – The mansion is remodeled to reflect Victorian style architecture
  • May 1889 – The legislature provides $13,500 to remodel the Mansion for the newly elected Governor Joseph Fifer, his wife Gertrude and their two children, Herman and Florence.  Mrs. Fifer was criticized for installing plate glass bay windows in the east and west rooms of the mansion, which some felt contradicted the style of the mansion. Florence Fifer quickly gained a reputation as a rambunctious child, entering her father’s inaugural ball by sliding down the mansion’s central staircase banister and keeping her pet baby alligator in the mansion fountain. Florence would go on to be Illinois’ first female state senator.
  • September 1889 – The exterior of the mansion is painted “a light stone color,” covering the Mansion’s original red brick.
  • 1897 – Newly elected Governor John R. Tanner and his new bride Cora English Tanner move into the Executive Mansion to find it in a state of disrepair.  The faucets leaked and the gas-powered lights flickered unreliably.  The central spiral staircase was dangerously near collapse, and plaster and paint throughout the mansion crumbled and peeled.  Mrs. Tanner became an advocate for renovating the mansion, enlisting the support of her husband and the Speaker of the House Edward Curtis of Kankakee. The Governor advocates for funds to repair the mansion, describing is as uninhabitable.
  • January 20, 1897 – Speaker Curtis appoints a special committee on the condition of the Executive Mansion.
  • June 10, 1897 – The General Assembly appropriates $27,241 for mansion renovations and Governor Tanner hires George Helmle, the architect of choice among Springfield’s elite.  Helmle’s work included the addition of a portico to the front entrance of the mansion, the enclosure of the cupola, a new main staircase and Corinthian pillars. The mansion plumbing system was also updated and connected to the city water system.  The mansion once again became the center of the Springfield social scene, hosting President William McKinley, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, James Whitcomb Riley and Annie Oakley.
  • February 3, 1913 - Governor Edward F. Dunne is sworn in, bringing with him to Springfield his wife Elizabeth and their nine children. The Dunnes were immediately confronted with the problem of fitting their large family in the mansion, which only had six bedrooms, one of which was intended for guests of the State.  The General Assembly would eventually approve $16,000 to update the mansion to accommodate the large family. Following the inauguration ceremony, Springfield welcomed Governor Dunne and his wife to the city with a crowd of three thousand waiting to shake the Governor’s hand.
  • April 6, 1917 – The United States declares war on Germany. Newly inaugurated Governor Frank I. Lowden devotes himself to supporting the war effort, earning the nickname “Win the War” Lowden.  His wife, Florence Lowden, is equally committed, frequently visiting the local Red Cross offices, knitting war items and hosting wheatless teas at the mansion.
  • July, 1917 – Mrs. Lowden plans  renovations to update the mansion’s utilities and address issues like a leaky roof, draftiness and pest infestations.  While the mansion is under repair, the Lowdens stay with John M. Black on Williams Boulevard.
  • October, 1917 – Work on the Mansion is completed and Governor Lowden and his wife resume residence.  The renovations cost almost $50,000, which the Lowdens split with the State. Renovations transitioned the Mansion from a Victorian to an Italianate style
  • 1929 – GA appropriates $90,000 for mansion improvements, on the recommendation of the state architect. The porches on the Mansions west side are enclosed and turned into two sunrooms.
  • June 17, 1931 - President Herbert Hoover visits Springfield to give a speech at Lincoln’s Tomb, and have lunch at the mansion.
  • September 4, 1936 – In the midst of the Great Depression, Governor Horner hosts a conference on drought relief for farmers at the mansion.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt attends, and gives an address from the mansion’s front porch promising farmers federal aid.
  • 1941 – Governor Dwight Green’s wife, Mabel, embarked on a mission to restore the mansion, addressing termite damage, damaged floors and a cave-in in the mansion’s library.  Her efforts were complicated by the United States’ entrance into World War II and the accompanying shortage in labor and materials. The shortages affected every aspect of life in the mansion, including the cooks, who found themselves serving Soybean loaf in the place of meatloaf.
  • 1943 – Governor Green opened the Executive Mansion to the USO, hosting parties and dinners for soldiers visiting Springfield while on leave.
  • 1952 – The mansion becomes the headquarters of Governor Stevenson’s presidential campaign, hosting campaign events and meetings.
  • August 6, 1961 – Newspapers criticize the maintenance of the mansion, calling it a “firetrap” in need of serious repair or demolition.  The roof leaked when it rained, and many of the floors were in danger of collapsing. A Chicago Sun Times columnist called the building’s current condition a “hazard, as well as a horror.”
  • June 19, 1961 – The Illinois House approves a bill to fund the construction of a new Executive Mansion. Preservationists across the state strongly objected, and the bill never made it to the Senate floor.
  • July 22, 1965 – Due to a lack of funds, Governor Kerner signs legislation creating the Executive Mansion Commission to study renovating the mansion, but vetoes $900,000 appropriated for repairs. The commission is made up of five House members, five Senators and five members of the public.
  • May 1969 – Governor Ogilvie and his wife, Dorothy, opposed a plan put forth by the Executive Mansion Commission to add east and west wings to house administrative offices. The Ogilvies enlisted the help of James T. Hickey and Lowell Anderson, both of whom worked at the Illinois State Historical Library, to develop a plan for restoration.
  • March 25, 1970 – A report by Springfield architectural firm Graham, O’Shea and Wisnosky recommends expanding the back half of the mansion to provide much needed space while maintaining as much of the mansion’s original shape and structure as possible. The addition included private living quarters for the Governor’s family.
  • February 1971 – Renovations on the mansion begin, the first complete renovations in the history of the Mansion. The General Assembly appropriate more than $3 million for the project.  Hickey and Anderson direct most of the work with an eye towards historical accuracy and preservation, with the goal of restoring the mansion, with focus on its 1855 features.  The Ogilvies take up residence in Lincoln Tower apartments.
  • 1971 – The not-for-profit Illinois Executive Mansion Association is created to support raising funds to maintain the public portions of the mansion, purchasing  antique period furniture and decorations to furnish the mansion.  First Lady Dorothy Ogilvie served as honorary chairwoman, setting the precedence for future first ladies of Illinois.
  • 1976 – The Executive Mansion is added to the National Register of Historic Places.