The Illinois Executive Mansion is a beautiful Italiante home. Built in the mid-19th Century, it has an iron gate, a curved driveway, a manicured lawn. Inside, it’s full of elaborate draperies, gilded wallpaper, Lincoln portraits and curving staircases.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich hated it, which was a mystery, because it’s almost as ornate as Graceland. Blagojevich flew home almost every night to Chicago, which Downstaters saw as a diss on Springfield. But Blagojevich argued that he wanted to raise his daughters in Chicago, and besides, his wife was allergic to the carpets.
So when Pat Quinn became governor, he promised to live in “the people’s house.” It turns out Quinn can’t stand it, either. In his first year in office, Quinn only spent 55 nights in the governor’s mansion -- and never more than three nights in a row.
Nobody wants to live in the governor’s mansion because nobody is allowed to actually live in the mansion. It’s not a house. It’s a museum. The governor and his family are hidden away in a seven-room apartment behind the main building, like a pack of white-trash relations who may soil the carpets and chip the dining table if they’re allowed to run loose.
Also, the governor’s mansion is in Springfield. When Springfield became the state capital, in 1839, it was bigger, more cultured and more exciting than Chicago, which was then a two-year-old fur trapping outpost. Things have changed. Today, the liveliest attraction in Springfield is Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, where Republicans rub the statue’s bronze nose for luck. Springfield’s idea of fine dining is the horseshoe, a hamburger covered in french fries and gooey cheese.
It’s no wonder that in the last 25 years, the only governor who’s lived in the mansion full time is Jim Edgar, who came from Charleston, an even sleepier prairie town.
Bill Brady promises to live in the Executive Mansion if he’s elected governor.
“The business of the state is rooted in Springfield,” said his spokesman Jaime Elich. “In order to effectively manage the affairs of the state of Illinois, the governor must have a strong presence in the capital city.”
They all say that.
Brady, a developer, has a super-fine house only 65 miles away. I’ll bet he decides that the comforts of home and the bright lights of Bloomington are more appealing than an apartment behind a historic site in Springfield.