Deb and I went to see this place yesterday. It was like walking into Downton Abbey but on a smaller scale. The mansion is a Tuscan Villa. The house (built between 1914-16) was built for Samuel Insull, the founder of Commonwealth Edison. After the Great Depression destroyed his fortune, the house was purchased by John Cuneo, Sr. It is, to quote the brochure:
“…a distinguished example from an era when commercial barons amassed great fortunes and created spectacular homes to serve as family retreats and social showcases.”
Many of the original objects are in the house and you definitely get a feeling of a different time and place. The architecture and gardens are considered masterpieces, designed by Benjamin Marshall and Jens Jensen. It has the the oldest residential elevator (designed by the original owner, Mr. Insull). It also has a chapel with incredible stained glass windows, one of which depicts the two Cuneo children watched over by their guardian angel. Some of the ceilings (which are incredible) are at least 20 feet high.
I’ll explain a lot more with different photographs. But I must admit, being there for a few hours, wandering around the grounds and the gorgeous mansion, made both of us feel as if the outside world did not exist. We felt part of the place, as if we had actually gone back in time and nothing else was around us. What we felt surprised both of us. Fifteen servants worked in the house. Some lived in, while others lived in cottages on the property.
The gardens were not as beautiful as in summer and many of the plants had been removed for the coming winter. There was a huge greenhouse on the premises, where gardeners grew the flowers for the garden and the house.
It was an amazing experience and we plan to go there in December when the two story Christmas tree will be put up.
We were lucky in several ways. It was a self guided tour, it was free and we started talking to a gentleman who, up until a year ago, was a guide for the tours. He actually gave us a tour and told us so many wonderful details that we were so happy to know. He was wonderful and said that we would have had to pay for that but today was free. I don’t know how much it costs to get in. It’s usually closed and open 2 Saturday’s a month, maybe.
The house was donated to Loyola University. It has been under renovation for years and it continues today.