Site Menu

The Capitol
First Floor
Second Floor
Third Floor
Fourth Floor
Exterior Views
Exterior Statuary
Basement, Etc.
\Past Capitols
The Kid Zone

News From The Past
Souvenir of Springfield
Babeuf's 1881-82 Springfield Directory





            An examination of the Executive Mansion was made yesterday by the Commission which was appointed by the General Assembly for the expenditure of the funds appropriated for the repair and refurnishing of the structure.  The Commission, consisting of Col. N. B. Wiggins, Dr. George Pasfield and Mr. E. L. Merritt, all of this city, met at the Leland Hotel and selected Mr. George H. Helmle as architect and superintendent for the remodeling of the interior arrangements.  Dr. Pasfield was elected President of the Commission and Mr. Merritt was selected for Secretary.

            After the survey of the mansion, Col. Wiggins said there is not $300 worth of furniture in the house.  He remarked upon the condition of the building as follows:  “If I had been elected Governor of the State of Illinois I would have said to the Secretary of State: You are custodian of the public buildings and grounds of the State of Illinois; take possession of this building and do what you like with it.  I will not live in it.  I would prefer to rent a house somewhere in the city and pay rent from my own pocket.  The whole thing ought to be torn down and replaced with a house which would make a home fit for a state officer to live in.”

            The Commission found that the roof leaked so badly that the water runs through to the first floor of the building and that it is necessary to set pans on the marble mantels in the parlors and the reception rooms to catch the rain which comes through the roof.  The ceilings are so badly out of repair from the effects of the leaks that half of them will be taken down.  The architectural arrangement of the inside of the building is so very poor that many of the partition walls will be removed and the rooms rearranged.  Col. Wiggins said that the $13,500 which the legislature appropriated will not go more than half way towards doing what should be done to make the Executive Mansion equal in appearance to the home of wealthy citizens of Springfield in private life.  Mr. Merritt expressed the same views and was even more pronounced in his condemnation of the appearance of the Mansion.  He said that Governor Fifer should never have gone into the house; that he should have simply walked from the front to the back door and gone somewhere else to live.  Mr. Merritt thought that $50,000 will not be more than enough to put the place in the condition it should be in.

            The private opinion of the members of the Commission seemed to be that the Executive Mansion of the State of Illinois is no better than an old rat-trap and ought to be torn down; that it is a disgrace to the State and unfit for the habitation of a person of dignity and respectability.  Nearly everything is antiquated and worn out.  Even the gas fixtures are not as good as may be found in the rear rooms of unpretentious business buildings in the city of Springfield.

            Governor Fifer’s last reception was not well attended because of a heavy fall of rain and the Mansion was not kept open until the usual late hour of a public reception.  If the people who attended had remained until a late hour their heads would have been assaulted with the plaster from a falling ceiling, but it was not sufficiently loosened by the rain until after the guests departed.  It fell after they were all gone.

            The Governor and his family will vacate about the 20th inst., and go to Bloomington for the summer.  The superintendent of repairs will go at once to New York City to examine materials for refurnishing and get prices and the work will begin immediately upon his return.  As soon as the expense is estimated the Commission will proceed to select furniture, carpets, curtains and other necessities in house furnishing goods to the extent of the money available for that purpose.  As far as practicable the materials for refurnishing will be procured in the State of Illinois.
Illinois State Journal - June 5, 1889