Tag Archives: historic


Did you know that the Illinois Governor’s Mansion in Springfield is the third-oldest governor’s mansion still in use in the United States? Designed by Chicago architect John M. Van Osdel, the sixteen room Italianate mansion was completed in 1855.

After decades of neglect and lack of upkeep, the Illinois Governor’s Mansion at 410 E. Jackson Street in Springfield had suffered significant interior and exterior deterioration. Roof repairs were a priority to prevent further water damage to the interior.

In May of 2015, the non-profit Illinois Executive Mansion Association launched a campaign to raise $15 million from private donors to restore the 162-year-old mansion. Two years later, the association had reached its goal. The yearlong renovation began.

During the renovation, Governor Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, lived in the Director’s House on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. When asked about living on the fairgrounds, “I have to say, I’ll be happy not to be listening to the speedway anymore,” Diana joked. “I’ll be listening to the trains instead.”

When the renovation is complete, the mansion will be ADA-accessible and have a fully functioning kitchen in the private residence. It will also have a revamped visitor’s experience to showcase the history of Illinois. According to The State Journal-Register posting May 21, 2018, “The mansion will include exhibits highlighting 1893’s World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois life during the Civil War, the children who have lived in the mansion, and an “Art of Illinois” project showcasing 80 pieces of fine and decorative art throughout the building.”

According to The State Journal-Register, the goal is to complete restoration in time for the August 2018 bicentennial of Illinois statehood. “This is one of the most historic, beautiful governor’s mansions anywhere in the United States, and we’re very proud to have it restored to its historic beauty,” Governor Rauner said.

What’s ahead for the mansion? Diana Rauner, who had co-chaired the non-profit Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association, said, “Ensuring that the building is well-taken care of is really important. One of the things that we’re so proud of is that this building will now be part of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Department of Natural Resources. It will be well-curated and well-cared for.”

—By Karen Centowski

To see photos taken during the restoration, go to Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/illinoismansion/



Winter! If you live in or near Chicago, winter always means ice and snow. However, nothing can compare to the snowstorms of the winters of 1967, 1979, 1999, and 2011. In each of those snowstorms, more than twenty inches of snow fell. Cars were buried in the drifts. Streets were impassible. Trains provided limited service. Airports were shut down.

The Chicago Blizzard of 1967

When the snowstorm began in January of 1967, the weathermen were predicting four inches of snow. But it kept snowing for two days. By the time the snow stopped falling, twenty-three inches of snow lay on the ground. It was the largest single snowfall in the city’s history.

Thousands of people were stranded at work, in schools, in buses, at the airport. Approximately 50,000 abandoned cars and 800 Chicago Transit Authority buses clogged the streets and expressways. Looters broke store windows and stole merchandise.

Major Richard J. Daley, a powerful mayor who served five terms, told residents that the city plows would clear the arterial streets first and then the side streets. He appealed to the residents to help by shoveling out the cars abandoned in the middle of the streets so the plows could come through. As was tradition in residential areas, each resident shoveled out his own car and put a chair or two to mark his parking space as reserved.

The Blizzard of 1979

The blizzard of 1979, one of the worst snowstorms in Chicago’s history, affected northern Illinois and northwest Indiana as well. As in the blizzard of 1967, weather forecasters had predicted only two to four inches of snow. However, twenty-one inches of snow fell in two days. Wind gusts reached thirty-nine miles per hour. The total amount of snow on the ground by the end of the day on January 14, 1979 was twenty-nine inches.

Wikipedia’s article called “1979 Chicago Blizzard” describes the scene: “O’Hare Airport was closed and all flights grounded for 96 hours from January 13 to the 15. The cold weather and snowfall throughout the rest of January and February resulted in frozen tracks throughout the Chicago ‘L’ system. At that time, commuters crowded onto CTA buses, quickly overwhelming capacity, resulting in bus commutes usually taking 30 to 45 minutes taking up to several hours. To avoid huge snowdrifts in the streets, the overcrowded buses were obliged to take numerous detours, adding additional time to the commute.”

Mayor Michael Bilandic, who was running for re-election, lost to Jane Byrne. Part of his loss can be attributed to his administration’s poor response to the storm. Read “How the Blizzard of 1979 Cost the Election for Michael Bilandic” at http://www.chicagomag/com.

The North American Blizzard of 1999

A strong winter snowstorm struck the Midwestern states and portions of eastern Canada from January 2 through January 4, 1999. States which were hardest hit were Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. Ontario and Quebec also received large amounts of snow. Chicago received a recorded 21.6 inches of snow.

The National Weather Service rated this storm as the second worst blizzard to hit Chicago in the 20th century. The Blizzard of 1967 was rated as the worst. Immediately following the snowstorm, temperatures dropped to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, a record low temperature in Chicago.

The impact of the storm was significant. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago was closed for the first time ever. Cars were left abandoned in the snow. Airports shut down. Highways were impassable. Rail service was halted or delayed.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, the son of the former mayor Richard J. Daley, reminded the city’s residents that this was a natural disaster. He urged citizens to help the city crews by digging out abandoned cars and shoveling sidewalks. Richard M. Daley was re-elected.

The 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard

A powerful and historic winter storm hit the North American continent January 31—February 2, 2011. The storm, which was estimated to affect 100 million people in the United States, brought cold air, heavy snowfall, blowing snow, and mixed precipitation. Thundersnow was recorded in downtown Chicago. A total of 21.1 inches of snow fell in Chicago during the blizzard. Winds of over 60 miles per hour were recorded during the blizzard.

There were numerous flight cancellations, airport closures, road closures, power outages, school closures, and business closures. Roofs collapsed because of the weight of the snow. Again, vehicles were stranded on Lake Shore Drive.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, who had been in office since 1989, did not seek a seventh term as mayor. On February 22, 2011, Rahm Emanuel was elected Mayor of Chicago.

To see a newsreel about the blizzard of 1967, go to Worst Blizzard in Chicago History, January 26, 1967 Universal Newsreel January 31, 1967. To see footage of the blizzards of 1967, 1979, and 1999 and commentary about the political impact of the blizzards, click on Chicago Blizzards VOA Television at the right of the screen.

 —By Karen Centowski