A House That Made History


When First Lady of Illinois MK Pritzker walked in to what would be her home away from home after her husband's inauguration in 2019, she was a bit overwhelmed -- but excited. The Governor's mansion's former first lady, Diana Rauner, had undertaken the task of doing a major upgrade of the structure and functions of the 1855 Italianate-Greek revival mansion. Mrs. Rauner oversaw new HVAC, improved structures and much needed repairs in all parts of the home, which is the oldest and largest governor's mansion in the country. So Mrs. Pritzker, who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, was thrilled to use her background to tackle the next job: redecoration.
"I was a bit like a duck to water, " she says.

Mrs. Pritzker hired renowned interior designer Michael Smith to head up the redecoration.  Smith, she notes, worked with First Lady Michelle Obama in the decoration of the Obama White House, among many other high-profile projects. Honoring the history of the home was crucial as Pritzker and Smith planned out the new look.  Pritzker moved many pieces of art from their personal collection -- including works by Illinois artists Karl Wirsum, Harold Gregor, Judy Ledgerwood and Karen Perl, and borrowed historic pieces from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  She designed a new China pattern for houseguests that can be mixed and matched with the dishes of previous administrations.  In the Lincoln bedroom, she hung a portrait of Senator Edward Baker on the wall next to a bed purported to be Lincoln's. Baker was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln killed in the Civil War.  The home features many decorative and artistic touches with a nod to agriculture and innovation.

Pritzker kept one other key idea in mind as she redecorated: the temporary nature of their accommodations.
"I know we won't be here forever, so I wanted to make sure I chose furniture and styles that would be comfortable and pleasing for the families who will come next."
Pritzker documented the history of the home, its first ladies and her redecoration in her new coffee table book, "A House That Made History." It is available now.

Want to see the mansion for yourself?  Click here for more information.

Mansion Flowers and Bouquets:
We were impressed by the gorgeous flowers on display throughout the mansion. Here are a few candid shots.