Stories from the Big House

20 December 2011

Holiday Lights!

Ornaments hang from the
Grand Staircase at the
Executive Mansion
This year the Hegeler Carus Mansion was invited to participate in the Historic Christmas at the Illinois’ Executive Mansion in Springfield.  The Governor's Mansion features historic flair once again this holiday season with decorations provided by Illinois museums and historic sites. 

The  Hegeler Carus Tree
in the Executive Mansion
Dining Room
The Executive Mansion is open for the public to see the decorations every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 3:30 p.m., and every Saturday from 9:30 to 11 a.m.  

Historic Christmas at the Mansion 2011” features 21 unique trees decorated by staff and volunteers from Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Dana-Thomas House, Old State Capitol, Vachel Lindsay Home, Elijah Iles House, Lincoln Home, Springfield Art Association – Edwards Place, and Pasfield House, all in Springfield.

Our Springfield Tree
is decorated with photos
of the Family, the Mansion,
ornaments, beautiful fabrics,
and mini Cricket magazines.

From other parts of Illinois are Lincoln’s New Salem near Petersburg; David Davis Mansion in Bloomington; Governor Duncan Mansion in Jacksonville; Quincy Museum; Hegeler Carus Mansion in LaSalle; Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville; Bishop Hill; Carl Sandburg State Historic Site in Galesburg; Bryant Cottage in Bement; Lincoln Log Cabin near Charleston;  Old Lincoln Courthouse and Museum in Beardstown; and Central Illinois Decorative Artists. 

You can visit many of these locations on the Historic Homes of Illinois website, and plan tours based on your location.
The Hegeler Carus Tree
with the Bishop Hill tree
in the background

The Executive Mansion trees were decorated by the volunteers November 25, 26 and 28 to prepare for the first public showing on November 29. 

Dried materials from the Executive Mansion gardens complement the decorated trees. 

Parlor Tree at
The Hegeler Carus
Back home at the Hegeler Carus Mansion we are decked out for Victorian Holiday.  Our grand tree in the Parlor was decorated by some of our dedicated volunteers.  New swags were made for the mantles by our volunteers. 
This year we also added flameless candles from Batteries and Things in all of the windows and placed throughout the house to provide ambiant light for our holiday tours, parties and events.  A fireplace insert for use in the main hall was donated for the Christmas Season by Maze Lumber of Peru.

New Mantle Swag, Flameless
Candles and Fireplace
The Hegeler Carus Mansion is open for tours Wednesday through Sunday at noon, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm.  There is a special evening tour on December 23.  Call (815) 224-5982 to make a reservation.  Check the website for holiday hours

01 December 2011

You are cordially invited

Edward and Camilla Hegeler
played by
Steve Seaborn and Maryhelen Bidasio
The year is 1899 and you are cordially invited to the home of Edward and Camilla Hegeler for our annual Christmas party.
This year's party promises to be great fun!

We have parlor games, music and a toast to the new century!

We have some wonderful guests visiting us this year from all over America and several friends are joining us from Germany!
Chad Brokaw as Paul Carus
Meridith Donohue as Mary Hegeler Carus
Our daughter Mary and her husband Dr. Paul Carus will co host this party with us this year.

Our guest list already includes:
Ida McKinley
Washington, DC
played by Carol Pratt

Karl Benz
of Ladenburg, Germany
Played by Dick Dorsch

Bertha Benz
of Ladenburg, Germany
Played by Kelly Klobucher
William LeBaron Jenney
of Chicago
played by Ken Ficek

Sarah Winchester
of San Jose, CA
played by Sandee Donahue
Lydia Moss Bradley
of Peoria, IL
play by Helga Interrante
Louis Comfort Tiffany
of New York
Played by John Graham

Frances Hodgeson Burnett
of Long Island New York
played by Sue Graham

Charles Gunther
of Chicago
Played by John Byrne
Madame Curie
of France
Played by Kimberly Maack

A few tickets remain for Thursday 1 December, Friday 2 December, Sunday 3 December.  Call Heather at (815) 224-5895 to reserve your space.  Tickets will not be available at the door.

09 November 2011

Alwin Carus

Most of the Stories from the Big House center around the Hegeler and Carus Families or the Mansion itself.

Alwin Carus

Today, we'd like to introduce our readers to Alwin Carus. 

Alwin was the last family member to live in the Hegeler Carus Mansion.  He is also the person to live in the mansion for the longest period of time.

Alwin was the youngest child of Mary Hegeler Carus and Paul Carus.  He was born in the Mansion on November 20, 1901 and he passed away in the Mansion on November 8, 2004-Just 12 days shy of his 103rd birthday.

In 1995 the Hegeler Carus Foundation was formed and operated in the Mansion while Alwin lived upstairs.  He was a wealth of knowledge and information and helped to guide the Foundation in the early stages of the preservation and restoration of the Mansion. 

Alwin's memories of his grandparents, Edward and Camilla, who commissioned the construction of the Mansion as well as his memory of family stories help our docents to interperet the house for our guests to this day.

He was also a benefactor for many orgaizations locally and worldwide.

20 October 2011

Night Tours at the Mansion

Moonlight at the Mansion
(by Ted Anderson)

Are YOU afraid of the DARK?

This October you can see the Hegeler Carus Mansion in a different light!

Candles light your way into
the Mansion.
 Join us for “Moonlight” tours of the Mansion! 

Candles light the
main hall.
  If you’ve seen the grandeur of the Mansion during the day, just wait until it gets dark! 

Candles and Moonlight
 Amid diffused lighting and soft shadows, our tour guides will take guests back in time to tell the story of the Hegeler Carus family and their extraordinary home.

Admission is $10. 
Tours are limited to 15 people.
Call 815-224-5892 to secure your reservation.

23 September 2011

If the House is Rocking...

On Saturday the 17th of September the Hegeler Carus Foundation closed its Summer Sunset Concert Series with a performance by many talented local singers.
"Jukebox Saturday Night" was directed by Hannah Marincic and choreographed by Meridith Donahue.

Donna Skutt and Steve Seaborn sing
"I've Got You Babe."
 The final concert of the summer season is always music performed on the balcony by local singers.  This year's show director Hannah wanted to shake things up a bit. 

The show was high energy and featured medleys of over 90 songs from the 1960's and 1970's for the group numbers as well as several solos and ensembles.  The cast wore brightly colored vests and danced the night away.

Our guests enjoying an evening
of music on the East Lawn of
the Hegeler Carus Mansion
 The weather was nearly perfect and a large crowd enjoyed music under the stars.

Many fans danced and sang along with the familier songs.

Hegeler Carus Foundation
Executive Director, Kelly Klobucher
with Classic Hits 106 DJ
The Rock and Roll Wizzard
 Jukebox Saturday Night was emceed by "The Rock and Roll Wizzard" of the Wizzard's Juke Joint on Classic Hits 106.  The Wizzard acted as Disc Jockey, announced the singers and songs and told anecdotes about the different songs while the cast sang.  Many of his dedicated fans who listen to his show every saturday night came to the concert to see him at the live show.

The Rock and Roll Wizzard
 At the beginning of the show, the Wizzard took the stage by coming out of one of the Mansion windows while the Juke Joint Theme Music played.  The Wizzard has been entertaining the Illinois Valley for almost thirty years, and has one of the longest running radio shows in the state.

The Hegeler Carus Singers
September 17, 2011
The Jukebox Saturday Night cast included:  Kevin Alleman, Julie Applegate, Maryhelen Bidasio, Abigail Colby, Phyllis Deany, Meridith Donahue, Pete Hamilton, Amalia Heiser, Erich Jauch, Kelly Klobucher, Ellen Marincic, Hannah Marincic, Steve Seaborn, Donna Skutt, Allison Washkowiak, and Megan Zomboracz Cullinan.

03 September 2011

Our Connection to The Parliament of World's Religions and the World's Fair Columbian Exposition of 1893

One of the most fascinating "Stories from the Big House" is the connection of the Hegeler and Carus Families with the Parliament of World's Religions, the first attempt to create a dialogue between faiths.

The first Parliament of World's Religions was held in 1893 in Chicago.  This event was held in conjunction with The Worlds Fair Columbian Exposition which many called The White City because of the white washed architecture of the fair buildings.  There has been renewed interest in the fair of 1893, due to the bestselling book, "The Devil in the White City."
The fair itself was a momentus occasion in history.  Many new things had their public debut at the fair, such as the Ferris Wheel, Cracker Jacks, Juicy Fruit Gum, the post card, Quaker Oats and shredded wheat.

People were coming to Chicago from all over the world to visit the fair.  Smaller conferences called "Parliaments" specialized in different areas of interest were scheduled. The Parliament of World's Religions was by far the largest of the conferences held in conjunction with the Exposition.  The Parliament ran from September 11 to September 27, 1893 had marked the first formal gathering of representatives of Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. Today it is recognized as the occasion of the birth of formal interreligious dialogue worldwide.

In 1893, Edward Hegeler and Paul Carus attended the Parliament of World's Religions.  While there they met many religious leaders of their time.  Carus is proposed to be a pioneer in the promotion of interfaith dialogue. He explored the relationship of science and religion, and was instrumental in introducing Eastern traditions and ideas to the West. Carus's book "The Gospel of Buddha" which he wrote and translated with D.T. Suzuki made him a key figure in the introduction of Buddhism to the western world.  Carus had a lifelong working friendship with Buddhist Master, Soyen Shaku. Carus’ interest in Asian religions seems to have intensified after he attended the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893.
For years afterwards, Carus was a strong sympathizer of Buddhist ideas, but stopped short of committing fully to this, or any other, religion. Carus worked for the rest of his life trying to organize another Parliament of Worlds Religions.  The Parliament of World's Religions gives the Paul Carus Award to those who have great acheivment in peace among religions through interfaith dialogue.

TodayA fantastic Art installation has been on display in Chicago at the Art Institute for almost a year.  Public Notice #3 is presented on the grand staircase.  September 11, 1893 was the opening day for the Parliament which took place at what is now Fullerton Hall in the Art Institute.  The terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon happened on that very date, 108 years later.  Public Notice 3, has the speech given by Swami Vivekananda from 1893, which called for an end to all "bigotry and fanaticism" written in multi colored LED lights. Viewers enter the art work by climbing the stairs from two sides and follow the words of peace up the stairs to four cardinal directions. 

Some of our Hegeler Carus Foundation members were fortunate to be invited to walk through this space and view this very powerful art installation.  It is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago until September 11, 2011. 


20 August 2011

Last Call Rocks the House!

On Friday, August 19 the grounds of the Hegeler Carus Mansion were transformed into "Hegeler-itaville" for our annual Buffett on the Balcony Summer Beach Party."

Last Call on the Balcony
When it was Five O'Clock Somewhere "Last Call" took to the stage on our balcony and performed the music of Jimmy Buffett for our Outdoor Sunset Summer Concert Series. 

Parrot Heads!
Guests dressed in sunglasses, flip flops, hawaiian shirts, sundresses, parrot hats and other beach attire, danced and sang along as the band performed many favorite Songs You Know by Heart.

Almost 200 guests enjoyed great weather and a beautiful night of music, food and friends.

The proceeds for this concert will go towards necessary repairs and renovations on the Julius W. Hegeler 1 Home, Center for Community Art and Education.

Many local people remember that the Illinois Valley YMCA and Stage 212 both began in the Julius W. Hegeler 1 Home.
The Hegeler Carus Foundation intends to continue that legacy of community when the Hegeler Center for Community Arts and Education is completed.

The Foundation has already started expanding educational and literacy programs for children which we will move across the street to the Hegeler Center when the renovation is finished.

In addition to playing the concert, "Last Call" also donated a gig with the band which was auctioned off at the concert.  Our thanks and congratulations go out to Kevin Mason who made the winning donation.

Lily Pad Catering
The Mansion's outdoor concerts are "Ravinia Style."  This means guests are allowed to bring food and Boat Drinks to the grounds.  This year we also were fortunate to add Lily Pad Catering from Mendota who provided wonderful Cheesburgers in Paradise walking tacos, taco salads, Key Lime Parfait, Margaritas and Lemon Shake-ups.

15 July 2011

The Big House

This blog is about the Hegeler Carus Mansion.  The Mansion is a National Historic Landmark in La Salle, IL.  We are open for tours Wednesday through Sunday and you can find more details about the tours on our website

Our tours are about an hour long...which simply is not long enough to tell our visitors all of the stories held within the walls that the Foundation is charged with preserving.

Here, we intend to fill you in on the rest of the story. Its the story of a house, a family, and their involvement in many significant moments in history, manufacturing, philosophy and religion.

If readers of this blog would like more information on the Mansion or the Foundation, questions or suggested blog topics can be posted on our Facebook Page.

The bloggers include our Executive Director, docents, tour guides and other experts on the Mansion.

The House-Construction began on the Mansion in 1874.  W. W. Boyington of Chicago was the architect.  Some of his noteworthy buildings include the Chicago Water Tower and Joliet Correctional Center...Ironically, people in town have always called the Mansion the "Big House!"

The interior of the Mansion was designed by August Fiedler.  He specialized in gorgeous woodwork and handpainted details on the walls and ceilings.  The Hegeler Carus Mansion possesses the most complete and uncompromised example of Fielders' original work as well as housing many beautiful antiques.

The Family-The Hegeler and Carus families have been making historic contributions in the areas of manufacturing, philosophy, religion and education for generations.
We hope you will enjoy this interactive way to experience more of the Hegeler Carus Mansion, and that it will inspire you to visit us soon!