Hidden Secrets of the Illinois Governor's Mansion - NBC Chicago
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Hidden Secrets of the Illinois Governor's Mansion

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An Exclusive Look at the New Illinois Governor's Mansion

    After more than two years, the $15 million renovation of the Illinois Governor’s Mansion is complete. But only we show you what you can’t see on the public tour. Zoraida Sambolin reports.

    (Published Friday, July 13, 2018)

    After two years and millions of dollars, the renovation of the Illinois Governor's Mansion is finally complete - but there are a few things you won't learn on the public tour.

    While the once-dilapidated mansion now boasts an education center and historic exhibits to explore, the first family's private residence is still off limits to the general public.

    But there are some elements first lady Diana Rauner shared in an exclusive glimpse of the brand new home.  See Inside the Illinois Governor's Mansion After RenovationsSee Inside the Illinois Governor's Mansion After Renovations

    Before its renovation, the governor's private residence didn't have one important thing: a kitchen.

    "There was a little bar sink that was about, you know - you couldn't even put a cereal bowl in it, it was so small, and a microwave and a small refrigerator," Rauner said. "And that was it in the private residence."

    "This used to be another bedroom," she added, gesturing to the brand new kitchen, fully functional with donated appliances. "This private space is big and it was empty, so we were able to carve out space for a kitchen and family room."

    Just off the kitchen, to the left of the refrigerator is an inconspicuous door, which leads to a small but rather bizarre piece of history.

    A dumbwaiter sits in the pantry-like area, a relic left in the mansion from a time well before the Rauners moved in.  A Secret Inside the Illinois Governor's Mansion KitchenA Secret Inside the Illinois Governor's Mansion Kitchen

    First lady Diana Rauner shows Zoraida Sambolin a strange part of the Illinois Governor's Mansion that you can't see on the public tour.

    (Published Friday, July 13, 2018)

    "The dumbwaiter goes down to the kitchen downstairs," Rauner said. "That's basically how other governors would be fed. They would just - everything would come up and down the dumbwaiter and they would just bring it up here. The dumbwaiter works, it's just a strange way to live."

    Across the kitchen, a dog bed wrapped in an orange and blue covering sits on the ground for Stella, the Rauners' dog.

    And while the Labrador retriever enjoys a comfortable life in the renovated mansion, her bed hides a sad story for the family.

    "We used to have two dogs. When we moved in we had two dogs, we had Stella and Pumpkin," Rauner said.  Rauners Missing Part of Their Family in Return to MansionRauners Missing Part of Their Family in Return to Mansion

    As the Rauners move into the newly-renovated Governor's Mansion, they're missing a big piece of their hearts. 

    (Published Friday, July 13, 2018)

    "Pumpkin, when we moved in, was about 15 years old. And because we had no elevator, Pumpkin was unable to come upstairs to the private apartment, she had to stay downstairs because she was too old to come up the stairs," she continued. "So it's very sad for us, it's bittersweet. Now we have an elevator but we have no Pumpkin - she passed away at 16."

    "She lived a long and very happy life but she never got to be up here," Rauner said.

    Now, with construction complete, the Rauners are still in the process of moving back in - using much of the furniture they purchased in 2015 after Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected.

    But it's first lady Diana Rauner who picked out the pieces, sharing that while the governor was away on business, she had an Illinois State Trooper similar in size to her husband's tall frame try out the living room sofa and chairs to make sure they were comfortable.

    In that same room, beautiful paintings adorn the walls, but they didn't come from the kind of art collection one might expect.

    "These are all paintings that belong to the Illinois Mansion Association and they were up in the attic," Diana Rauner said. "When we moved in, I went up to the attic - which I don't think you want to see what it looks like up there - and I just poked around and found paintings and I brought them down and hung them up."

    "There's quite a lot of interesting things - but then there's a lot of strange things up there, I promise you," she added.

    As one of the three oldest continuously occupied governor's residences in the country, the Illinois Governor's Mansion holds quite a few secrets, with more certain to be revealed over time.

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