Upon arriving at the Mansion on Monday morning, I glanced at my calendar and realized that this week marks my five year anniversary at the Hegeler Carus Foundation. Time really does fly when you are having fun. Like any job, there are good times and bad. Fortunately for me, the good amounts to months and years, and the bad amounts to a few rare hours. I decided to write (what started out to be a short) reflection on what our organization has accomplished and what we plan to do in the future.
|By Kelly Klobucher
Like all homeowners, we at the Hegeler Carus Foundation have had our share of surprise repairs, floods, leaky roofs, broken pipes, security breaches, and other unexpected catastrophes on top of our regular maintenance and restoration plans. These complications are often magnified by the fact that the home we own and care for is over 140 years old, nearly 100 feet tall and over 20,000 square feet of living space.
The Foundation, chartered in March of 1995, is only 20 years old, and I am fortunate to have been here for a quarter of that time. Our goal seems simple: support cultural activities while restoring the Hegeler Carus Mansion. But we have tasked ourselves with so much more...
|Rooftop Sunrise photo by Mansion Caretaker Kristin Irvin, edited by Kris Wilke.
The Mansion is an economic driver.
Last year we put over $375,000 back into our local economy by purchasing goods and services to preserve, restore and maintain the buildings on our museum campus.
Our six paid staff members, intern and 60+ volunteers are often the first faces a visitor sees in our community. We act as ambassadors and curators for the rest of their visit by offering suggestions on where to shop, eat, and explore in Starved Rock Country.
The Mansion is a tourist attraction.
We receive visitors from all over the world. More than 80% of the people who tour the Mansion are from more than 60 miles away and many stay overnight in the area. In La Salle County alone, tourists spent nearly $181 million dollars last year on travel expenditures. Tourists like to shop in small businesses, eat in unique restaurants, buy gas and other necessities, stay overnight in hotels, and all of this generates tax dollars and helps improve our local economy.
The Mansion is a cultural venue.
The Mansion provides a venue for arts and culture of all kinds- from the Beatles to Beethoven. Over the years we have vastly expanded our program offerings. We started out hosting monthly lectures and musical performances. In 2011 we launched the Summer Sunset Concert Series, with performances on the balcony every Friday night. We also hosted an outdoor music festival and outdoor art fair which showcased the very best in local artists. In 2013 a replica of the Hegeler family's gazebo was built where it originally stood on the shaded west lawn in the Mansion's gardens. The gazebo is now the home
for the concert series and weddings. In 2015 the series grew with the addition of Saturday concerts. Since 2011 thousands of people have attended and enjoyed live outdoor music each summer. In contrast with our Mansion tours, more than 80% of our event attendees are local. We are grateful to have sponsors in the community who have allowed us to provide music and entertainment at a very low cost to attendees.
Our indoor programming now reflects the seasons. Fall brings out our spooky side with lectures, story tellings, theater productions and candlelight evening tours. Winter's historic holiday themed tours, concerts and theater events are fast becoming holiday traditions for people throughout the region. When the weather breaks, spring's Women's History Month events and Irish Storytellers are a welcome reason to venture out after a long winter. These program additions result in over 100 special events each year.
The Mansion is a preservation project.
As preservationists, we protect and conserve the Hegeler Carus Mansion-a National Historic Landmark-built in 1874, the Julius W. Hegeler I Home built in 1905, the Stone Cottage, and three other structures on our museum campus. We have completed 90% of the exterior restoration. This is a project that was started long before I arrived, and maintaining this restoration will continue for as long as the Mansion exists. The Foundation completed the restoration of one interior room, the Reception Room, in 2005. After many years of fundraising and saving we were able to completely restore the ceiling of the Parlor across the hall and began the restoration of the floor in the Parlor earlier this month. This would not have been possible without the generosity of our supporters as well as a large anonymous donation which helped us to save this phenomenal work of art and architecture for future generations.
Across the street at the Julius W. Hegeler I Home, we have repaired the roof, rebuilt more than half of the windows-a unique and identifying trademark feature of the house, tuck pointed the entire west side, repaired the entrance on the north side and reconstructed a collapsed wall and patio area on the south side.
The Mansion is a museum.
We educate and entertain. We provide programs to hundreds of school children each year. We visit classrooms in schools that due to budget cuts, cannot afford to bus students as part of their social studies curriculum. Many classes still visit the mansion during the school day for a tour and glimpse into life in the 1890's. We teach that old buildings matter, that ALL of our stories are important and must be told because once they are gone, they are gone forever.
The Mansion is recognized by museum, history and preservation professionals across the Midwest as one of the most fascinating historic house museums to visit. This is due to the passion and knowledge of our docents and staff.
The Mansion is a vital part of our community.
We celebrate when we see business growing in our area. Over the past five years we have welcomed new retail shops and restaurants in La Salle, and we have enjoyed seeing the Starved Rock region grow as tourism increases. Our staff and volunteers constantly promote our region, knowing that if visitors think this is a nice place to visit, they will realize it is also a nice place to live and do business.
The Mansion is inspirational.
It means many things to many people. As the home of Edward Hegeler it stands as a symbol of what can be achieved through entrepreneurship and hard work. As a commission of architect W. W. Boyington, it is a masterpiece of engineering and design. As the only unaltered version of the work of designer August Fiedler it is a beautiful work of art. As the home of Paul Carus it is a center of philosophical, scientific and religious dialogue. As the home of Mary Hegeler Carus it is the domain of a one of the original working women engineers-a pioneer in her field.
For over 140 years history has lived here. There are days when I look around and feel overwhelmed by the amount of work we have ahead of us. There are many more days when I look back and feel good about all that we have accomplished. It takes a long time to make history and that is what we are doing, every day.
If at any point in the past five years you have visited, donated time, money or supported the Mansion in some way, I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU. My gratitude for all means of support is heartfelt. We could not do this without the support of people like you in our community.
I also recognize that we often travel for miles to visit attractions and historic sites and sometimes we miss those that are right in our back yard. If you have not toured the Mansion or attended one of our events, please consider this my personal invitation to visit us. I know that once you visit, you will understand why I am so passionate about this place, which I am honored to represent.
If you have questions on how you or your organization can support us in our programs, mission or preservation projects you may reach me at (815) 224-5891 or click here to donate today.