Stories from the Big House


Two Homes--One Legacy.
The Hegeler Carus Foundation is in the process of preserving two historic homes in La Salle, IL;  The Hegeler Carus Mansion of 1874 and the Julius W. Hegeler I Home of 1903.

An Architectural Masterpiece
The stately Hegeler Carus Mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, is now a National Historic Landmark. Virtually unaltered since its completion more than a century ago, the Hegeler Carus family home is an excellent example of artistic acheivement in architecture and in interior design.  Is is also the site of historic accomplishments in industry, philosophy, publishing and religion.  Visitors today experience the grandeur of a bygone era and the heritage of a fascinating family.  Their history is woven with that of the Illinois Valley and the United States, as well as internationally. 

W.W. Boyington
Edward Hegeler commissioned W.W. Boyington, the architect of Chicago's famous Water Tower to design the Mansion.  Built in the Second Empire style, the Mansion is a grand presence in the Illinois Valley.  The lavish 16,000 square-foot seven level home features a mansard roof, dormer windows, molded cornices, decorative brackets and a tower crowned by a 30 foot tall cupola. 
The Mansion is solid brick construction covered with a type of stucco that has been smoothed and tooled to resemble massive stone blocks.  A horse shoe staircase leads guests to the main entrance of the home and to an elegant wrap-around porch that graces three sides of the residence, a full story above ground.  Because zinc was readily available from the nearby Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Company, the metal is used throughout the Mansion.  The flat roof, gutters and downspouts are zinc-which does not rust.
The Mansion sits on part of what was once an eight acre estate that featured extensive walking paths, a horse barn, a carriage house, a gazebo, a reflecting pond, flower gardens a greenhouse, tennis courts and a railroad trolley car.

August Fiedler's Work at the Hegeler Carus Mansion
August Fielder was a very talented German-American interior designer, architect and furniture maker working in the Chicago area in the late 19th century.  While he designed several entire buildings, he is most noted for the exquisite interiors he created for buildings done by other architects.  He became one of Chicago's most sought after interior designers following his work at the Mansion.

"With discrimination and judgement, it need cost no more to make your house beautiful than it has cost to make it ugly."
-August Fielder
The Hegeler Carus Mansion is perhaps the most intact example remaining of Fiedler's interior work-and a rare example of high Victorian interiors in general.  The Mansion interior is virtually unchanged since the 19th century.  It is faded, but still original.  Restoration of the original decor is ongoing.  The result is an extraordinary glimpse into the unity of architecture and interior decoration.

The Julius W. Hegeler I Home
Across the street from the Hegeler Carus Mansion is the Julius W. Hegeler I Home.  The home was commissioned in 1903 for Edward and Camilla Hegeler's oldest son Julius by Chicago Architect brothers, Irving and Allen Pond.  The Arts and Crafts style home was instantly a La Salle showpiece, but was only occupied by the Julius Hegeler family for a short time.  In 1905 the family moved to Danville, IL to start a zinc smelting operation.
After Julius and his family moved to Danville, Talcott and Paula Carus Barnes lived in the home with their two sons, Edward and William.  The Herman Carus Family also lived there.  The house was donated to the Achievement of the Arts Corporation and was subequently used as a community center where many clubs and organizations met before being abandoned to the ravages of weather and time.  Many organizations, including the Illinois Valley YMCA, started in the home.
The Julius W. Hegeler I Home was purchased by the Foundation and saved from the wrecking ball in 2005.  The purchase of the house was made possible by a grant from Richard H. Dreihaus Charitable Lead Trust.
The home is presently being restored to its former glory.  It is the hope of the foundation to make the Julius W. Hegeler I Home an Arts and Community Enrichment Center-a venue for concerts, lectures, education, weddings and private events.