Inside the President's House
"...a suitable President's House should be provided...adequate for the probable needs and duties of the President of the University."
This simple decree in 1928 by the Board of Trustees set into motion the construction of a permanent residence for the leader of the state's premier public university, the University of Illinois.
The 14,000-square-foot Georgian Revival home is both a residence for the president and family as well as a receiving point for visiting dignitaries, alumni, community groups and supporters. It was designed by University of Illinois architect James M. White and New York architect Charles A. Platt. Completed in 1931 at a cost of nearly $225,000, the current President's House has served as the official residence for the head of the University of Illinois, beginning with President Harry Woodburn Chase.
President's House: Interior
Most of the original furniture made or ordered for the house by Chicago's Watson & Boaler Co. is still in use today. Established in 1916, Watson & Boaler maintained a custom furniture shop until 1954; its metal nameplates signifying custom work are found on numerous pieces in the President's house.
One of the most notable original furniture items is the formal mahogany dining room suite with twelve Chippendale chairs. In 1986-87, twenty-four volunteer stitchers created new needlepoint seat covers for the dining room chairs and twelve companion chairs used throughout the house. These Illini Stitchers worked intricate patterns featuring woodland and prairie wildflowers, birds and insects native to Illinois.
President's House: Guests
Aviator Amelia Earhart, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, actor John Malkovich, movie critic Roger Ebert, businessmen and philanthropists Arnold Beckman and Thomas Siebel, governors, Nobel laureates, Supreme Court justices, artists, coaches, international ambassadors and members of town-and-gown organizations — all have crossed the threshold into the President's House.
Over time, the President's House has welcomed more than 200,000 people to meetings, receptions, lunches and dinners. Approximately 4,500 invited guests attend events at the house each year.
President's House: Grounds
Because the land that was selected in 1929 to be the site of the President's House was then known as the "horticulture tract," it featured a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. In the original 1931 proposal, the horticulture department envisioned that the grounds would serve three purposes: private use of the president and family; demonstrating gardening to public visitors; and demonstrating garden design and maintenance to students. Today, the President's house is neighbor to both the Japan House and the Arboretum, which includes the Hartley Selections Garden, the Welcome Garden, and the Idea Garden.
President's House: Patio
Over time, some modifications to the grounds have been made such as the addition of a brick patio in 2001. Beyond the patio and tree-lined backyard is the Miles C. Hartley Selection Garden and a 20-acre horticulture field laboratory. Weather permitting, visitors and guests enjoy the patio and gardens when attending the many events hosted by the president.