After being closed for two years, the landmark Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills will reopen this fall for public tours and programming well ahead of the original plan.
Loyola University Chicago intended to wait until more renovation could be completed, but public interest prompted senior management to offer limited opportunities to view the expansive house built 100 years ago as a residence for utility titan Samuel Insull.
"We're billing this as a sneak peek of what has been going on behind the scenes," said Lisa Cushing-Davis, operations manager for Loyola at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens. "As a public historian, I know the importance of the mansion to the collective memory of the community."
That's good news for village officials, who are considering a residential development plan for a portion of the property intended to generate cash for continued restoration of the mansion.
"That's where I was hoping we were headed," said longtime village Trustee Thom Koch, a history teacher. "It's quite an interesting place. I'd like to see us make even more use of it."
While it was built for Insull, the salmon-colored 31,000-square-foot Italian villa-style dwelling is best known as the Cuneo family residence. Publishing king John Cuneo Sr. bought the house and property west of Milwaukee Avenue in 1937.
In 2010, the Cuneo Foundation donated the mansion, valuable art work and collections, property, cash and other assets valued at $50 million to Loyola.
The family opened the house for guided tours in 1991, but those ended two years ago as Loyola began a massive overhaul that already has exceeded $7 million,
Public self-guided tours and programming will be offered from noon to 4 p.m. two Saturdays each month -- Sept. 10 and 24; Oct. 8 and 22; and, Nov. 5 and 19. Cushing-Davis will have introductory remarks on the quarter hour and will be available to answer questions.
Admission is free and programming will be offered on three of the Saturdays, she added. Included will be a Nov. 5 discussion with Grayslake author John Wasik, who wrote a book about Insull.
Except for two rooms, the first- and second-floor family living spaces will be open for visitors to browse. The extensive porcelain and silver collections in those rooms will be moved for public display.
"We're very excited to be able to welcome visitors back in to tour the mansion, and to discuss with them the renovations that Loyola has been able to accomplish to date, as well as the work that is yet to be completed," Cushing-Davis said.
That includes restoration of the 30-foot glass canopy in the Great Hall, planned for spring.
Loyola plans to sell 53 acres to Pulte Homes to build a gated community of 128 houses. That plan is being reviewed by village staff with an eventual public hearing by the planning and zoning commission, according to Joe Carey, assistant village manager.