Stories from the Big House

24 January 2014

Happy New Year 2014

2013 was a transformative year for the Hegeler Carus Foundation. As we enter the 140th anniversary of the construction of the Hegeler Carus Mansion, we reflect on all that we have accomplished in 2013, and feel grateful for your support!  Whether you attended an event, donated your time or financial resources towards our mission, contributed to one of our preservation projects, or introduced new friends to our organization, we appreciate you!

In early 2013 we experienced a crime against history in with the senseless vandalism of the Mansion and the destruction of an irreplaceable artifact during a burglary attempt.  This tragedy brought our community closer to us and we persevered.  We treasure the support and new friendships that formed during those dark days.

2014 marks 140 years since construction began on the Mansion.  The Hegeler family was able to move in to their new home, a modern marvel, less than two years later.  We at the Foundation enter this 140th year with a renewed focus.  We look back at the challenges and accomplishments of the last 18 years.  The world has changed since we acquired this magnificent house in 1995.  In order to stay relevant for the next 140 years, we need to change with it.  We have increased our events from 30-40 per year to over 150 in 2013.  The unique variety of events are low cost, family friendly, and are introducing a new audience to the Mansion.

We have been busy searching for new ways to provide quality cultural and educational programs to our community and we are working to create a sustainable organization that will preserve the Hegeler Carus Mansion for the next 140 years and beyond.  The Foundation staff, volunteers, and Board of Directors are not only proud of what we have accomplished this year, we feel privileged to protect and preserve the Mansion and it's History.  

We are happy to report the following milestones achieved in 2013:

Building and Grounds:  Our first project this year was to add more security cameras and additional lighting to further protect the Mansion.  This was an unfortunate-and unexpected- project that required immediate attention after experiencing crime. The considerable work and expense involved in these upgrades threatened our scope of work, and required the postponement of some of our planned restoration projects.  We are grateful to those who donated towards this emergency.

We were fortunate to receive a grant from The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors and were able to do paint analysis and research necessary to plan for our future projects.  

We also received a generous gift which allowed us to begin preserving the Parlor.  The ceiling is glorious!  It was restored over a period of six months, and further preservation work is planned in the Parlor for 2014.

In the spring, we reconstructed a gazebo that was in the gardens at the turn of the century.  The gazebo has become our music venue on the west lawn of the Mansion grounds.  It is an excellent focal point in the yard and is the area's only outdoor music venue not connected to a bar or restaurant.  Hundreds of people attended our Ravinia style concerts each Friday all summer long. 
 Hosting concerts on the west lawn has provided easier access to our guests via the west gate.  We are grateful to Tieman Construction for the work they did on this project, which was finished in time for our first summer wedding.  

This fall we replaced the north entrance, deck and ramp to the Mansion in order to prepare for restoration of the Open Court Hall.  It is easier now for guests with mobility issues, and in summer will provide a shaded place for visitors to rest before and after their Mansion tour.   As a result of January's break-in, the restoration work on the Open Court Hall was delayed.  We hope to complete it in 2014.  The Open Court Hall will be a versatile room with the ability to act as an event venue, classroom, gallery space, exhibit area.  In addition, guests with mobility issues will be able to view the gymnasium from there.

Programming: We enjoyed record setting attendance at our events in 2013.  Many of our indoor concerts, lectures and special tours sold out online in advance of the event.

Our Summer Sunset Concert Series made use of our new gazebo every Friday night all summer long.  We expanded the concert series and brought an even wider variety of music to the gardens this year.

We added an outdoor storytelling festival to our event line up due to the popularity of our indoor storytelling sessions.  This is a wonderful event that we know will grow from year to year just as our other events have.

We have accomplished many wonderful things since The Hegeler Carus Foundation was formed in 1995, but we know our work has just begun and, like any worthwhile endeavor, it is never completed.   

We invite you to celebrate with us in 2014 as we observe 140 years of living history. 

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