Governor's Mansion, 1858 & 1880s

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Springfield Journal Register, date of paper which originally published the following is unknown.

(Photograph courtesy of Mrs. Claence Root, Detroit)
This is by all odds the rarest picture of the Governor's Mansionn in its early days that we have ever come across. From all the circumstances surrounding it, we would judge that it goes back to about the year 1858, the same time that the picture of the old State House and the four sides of the public Square were made. It shows the side elevation on the west - the Mansion in its attractive grounds with white gravel walks, shrubbery and landscaping, with a white picket fence enclosing the property. Note the impressive front entrance at left, the conservatory surmounting the roof, the side porch and the little gallery above, from which the ladies of Gov. William H. Bissell's household were watching the proceedings. (This type of photography was a decided novelty in that early day.) In the group, probably, were Mrs. Bissell, the Governor's two daughters by his first marriage - Josephine and Rhoda, and the two adopted daughters. The Mansion was erected in 1856, during the administration of Gov. Joel A. Matteson. Governor Matteson never liked the official residence, regardint ias "too unpretentious" for the dignity and prestige of the office! After retiring as Governor, he proceeded to erect a palatial home just opposite the Mansion on Fourth Street, which was considered the finest residence in the State in its time.


The late Harry E. Barker, who died in California only a few years ago, is well remembered here for the attractive art store he conducted on Adams Street between 4th and 5th (now the MacDonald establishment), and the attention he gave to Lincolniana and other matters pertaining to local history. Among other special items he had for sale was his own "Souvenir of Springfield," a thin cloth-bound brochure containing lithographs of the Lincoln shrines, public buildings, business houses, prominent residences and the like. At that time his shop was located at 216 South 6th Street. Many of these "souvenirs" were bought by representative business houses to give out to their good customers. The picture of the Governor's Mansion shown above was typical of the illustrations - and the fanciful commercial art work of that day, as well. The legend states that the Mansion structure dates back to 1856, and is the first and only official residence built by the State for its Governors. In its more recent remodelings, the cupola, or observatory as it was once called, has disappeared, and along with other changes, a new entrance is in place, with steps leading up from either side, and a new fountain in the grass plot on the lawn. The ornamental iron fence enclosing the block has also been removed, and the grounds have been enhanced by extensive landscaping. But, as this picture of the Eighties reveals, the old Mansion had a distinctive charm that was all its own.

Submitted by: Jeanie Lowe.