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LaSalle mansion goes back in time

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Published: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 10:58 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
The exterior of the Hegeler Carus Mansion is seen Sept. 12 in La Salle. Under layers of paint and faded by time, the secrets of the Hegeler Carus Mansion have been hidden for years. Now a crew works to bring back the vibrant colors and style of the parlor so people can see how it looked nearly 140 years ago.

LaSALLE – Under layers of paint and faded by time, the secrets of the Hegeler Carus Mansion have been hidden for years.

Now a crew works to bring back the vibrant colors and style of the parlor so people can see how it looked nearly 140 years ago.

The house, located on Seventh Street in LaSalle, was built in 1874 for Edward and Camille Hegeler and their 10 children. The family moved here from Germany and started the Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Co. Edward Hegeler also ran Open Court Publishing out of the house. The house is known to restoration enthusiasts because of the architect for the house, W.W. Boyington, and the interior designer, August Fiedler.

“It’s the first room we have been able to restore since I’ve been here. It has taken us over three years to raise the money,” said Kelly Klobucher, executive director of the Hegeler Carus Foundation.

In 2005, before Klobucher worked for the foundation, the reception room across from the parlor was restored. She said the restoration process goes from the ceiling down to the floor of the room. The ceiling had 13 layers of white paint which needed to be removed 1 square inch at a time with a cotton swab. However, the layers protected the beautiful stencil work that was on the original ceiling. The reception room was the first fully restored room at the mansion.

Klobucher said the hard part is the mansion staff cannot just pick up tools and a paint brush and repair the mansion. The details of the original work have special processes and need to be handled by professionals who know how to restore the former beauty, she said. The stencil work that makes up the parlor ceiling has an integrated pattern with several layers that takes hours to paint on. Klobucher said they had to find the right people to tackle the job.

“There are not many people who can do what we are doing,” she said.

The foundation picked Anthony Kartsonas, architectural conservator, and his company, Historic Surfaces, because of the meticulous work he and his staff does, Klobucher said. Kartsonas and some of his staff also worked on the reception room as part of a different company.

Kartsonas said the first part of the job was to document the conditions of the room, discover problems, look for missing elements to the design and figure out how to reintegrate them with the original ones. He said they did find areas that were previously painted over or badly deteriorated. Next the decision came on what needed to be saved and if it could not be saved how to best integrate in the new work so it does not overshadow the original pieces.

“We don’t make it look like it is new compared to the original. You also don’t want to make the original look too perfect because it needs to tell a story as well. It is hundreds of years old,” said Kartsonas.

He said the crew needs to keep the natural aged look. He added that he likes that not all the house is restored because it tells the story of what happened to the house over the years and people get to see how it naturally aged. It’s also good, he said, because they are not undoing a lot of repair work to recreate original work.

Hegeler Carus Mansion is unique because it’s in its original state as it was when it was built. Kartsonas said it is very rare to deal with having a whole house like this. He said it is like putting together pieces of history, but they do not have to look very far because most of the design still is there. The crew is doing less replication work and keeping 80 percent of the original work. The crew is also using a report done in the 1990s about the finishing done in the house and photographs of the room which showed the design. Kartsonas said this helped to show how much they had to reveal in order to get a complete design.

Kartsonas said his work will wrap up this month, but the mansion will have more details to add before it will be completely restored. Klobucher said that even though she sees the house and multiple rooms each day, she still has a shock when she sees the rooms restored to their original vibrant colors.

The fading of the colors had to do with time and some repair work done to the house.

She said people might think the Victorian era was full of dark colors because of the state of the house, but the original décor was very bright and colorful.

“This room is really going to change. A lot more than I thought it would,” she said. “It’s going to be neat to see it the way the Hegelers saw it.”

People are invited to come for tours to see the progress and Klobucher said it would be great to see how this room develops. People cannot go in and touch things but they can see it and hear about the process. She said they also can get an appreciation for the work that has to be done.

Kartsonas said the team also is working on assessing the rest of the first floor to fill in gaps from the study in the ‘90s. The house has several rooms that need work, but nothing has to be done immediately so the foundation can take time and save money to remake the rooms, said Kartsonas. He said they also are looking at conservation versus restoration in what needs to be done and helping to develop a long-term restoration plan.

“It’s a very enjoyable thing because there’s a level of personal gratification that is very high when you can be involved with something and there is a dramatic difference from start to finish and you can see the difference,” said Kartsonas.

Klobucher said the Hegel-er Carus Foundation is fundraising to do the dining room and Open Court hallway on first floor for events.

“We have a lot going on. We are really trying to be a cultural center for the community. We want people to come here,” she said.

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Source: (LaSalle) News-Tribune, http://bit.ly/1c20M7x

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Information from: News-Tribune, http://www.newstrib.com

This is an Illinois Exchange story shared by the (LaSalle) News-Tribune.

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