Tours and wedding receptions again to be offered at former Cuneo estate
Wedding receptions are back as plans to convert a pavilion to classrooms has been dropped by Loyola University Chicago for its facility at the former Cuneo estate in Vernon Hills.
Loyola also will resume public tours at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens although major repairs to the historic, century-old home won't be happening soon.
And to the north, model homes have opened and others are being built on what once was part of the idyllic Cuneo estate in the woods.
The Final Four Loyola Ramblers basketball team won't be visiting but brides and grooms will as the home and grounds again are available for weddings and other events. A bar mitzvah April 21 is the first private event in nearly two years followed by the first wedding reception of the season April 28.
What then was known as the Cuneo Museum and Gardens was featured in the reception scenes in the 1997 movie "My Best Friend's Wedding" starring Julia Roberts. And for 21 years ending in 2014, the grounds were home to the village's extensive and popular drive-through holiday light show.
Much has changed but a lot of work is left on the home and grounds gifted to Loyola by the Cuneo Foundation in 2010. The Italian-villa style mansion, built for utility magnate Samuel Insull, 97-acre estate, art work, collections and other assets were valued at $50 million.
Two original boilers, knob and tube wiring, and two flat roof systems have been replaced and other repairs made. But the bulk of Loyola's more than $7.3 million investment was spent on an annex with a commercial kitchen and banquet hall for weddings and other events.
Known as the pavilion, the structure replaced an indoor pool and overlooks extensive formal gardens in a landscape created a century ago by renowned designer Jens Jensen.
But Loyola shifted gears, saying the pavilion would be converted to classrooms as it moved from event-based to academic operations. The last private event was July 2, 2016.
But the classroom conversion stalled and the porcelain and silver collections will be moved and two bedrooms on the second floor repurposed.
"Academics have not grown to the point we need those two spaces but we are prepared to accommodate academic growth without sacrificing space in the pavilion," said Lisa Cushing-Davis, operations manager.
The 31,000 square-foot mansion was closed to public tours for two years before reopening for a limited run in 2016. It was closed last year but will reopen on Fridays and Saturdays beginning June 2, with group tours on weekdays.
Opening to the public was among the conditions of an agreement with the village allowing Loyola to sell 52 acres to Pulte Homes for a residential development.
Loyola has guaranteed to invest $3 million of the proceeds to repair and upgrade the mansion. But because of the intricate craftsmanship there is a delay in proceeding with some of the work, such as making the electric-powered, 47-foot long, 28-foot wide skylight above the Great Hall operable.
"We need contractors who are experienced with working on historic buildings," said Cushing-Davis. "These people have a really long lead time because there's so few of them." That job is slated for April or May 2019.
The mansion is "deeply embedded in the collective memories" of residents in Vernon Hills and neighboring communities, she added, and Loyola remains focused on preserving the mansion.
"We want people to understand we do take our stewardship seriously," she said.
Meanwhile, homes at The Residences at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens are being built.
Site work began last June after more than two years of planning, review and approval as village officials wanted a project in keeping with the surroundings.
An on-site sales office opened Jan. 27. Two model homes have been built, permits have been issued for four new homes and three others are being reviewed, according to Mike Atkinson, Vernon Hills' building commissioner.