Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Havencrest Castle


Outing Date: October 27, 2013

Destination: Havencrest Castle, Savanna (Illinois, not Savannah, Georgia, sillies!)

Details: A group of CTCC folks including Tom and Judy Bruin, Joel Greenberg and Annie Luginbill, Len and Mary Keil, Larry and Karen Kelly, Jerry and Doreen Michna (accompanied by Doreens mom), Jerry and Pat Peterson, Ken and Kathy Smizinski, Len and Irene Vinyard, and Bob and Sue Wenderski met Bob and Helen at the Wasco McDonalds bright and early Sunday morning and headed west to the eastern bank of the Mississippi to visit Havencrest Castle in Savanna; along the way we were joined by Debra Powless, who was chauffeured by Jared, her son, and then we met Pete and Marylu Kramer in Savanna.

The Hoges had arranged for a great tour of  the one and only Savanna Castle - Havencrest Castle, which had been originally called Hillcrest and was built in the early 1900s by Savannas Greenleaf family as part of a bet to see which of the towns elite could construct the fanciest home. The Greenleafs won, having TWO indoor water closets, hot and cold running water, and electricity in a time when these were uncommon. The family remained there until the 1940s, when Mr. Greenleaf and then his wife died, and their children moved away. The building went through a number of changes until in 1976 Alan and Adrianne St. George purchased the home and began a lifelong process of expanding and decorating it in what one writer has termed the manner of American Aristocracy. The couple were fulfilling their credo "Reality is for those who lack Imagination" and they increased the number of rooms from 22 to 63, with each having a theme such as The Fragonard Music Room, The Chicago Conservatory, and The Medieval Hall. They did all the work themselves without an architect or a designer; Adrianne was the inspiration while Alan was the creator of these rooms, which blend fantasy and reality. As rooms were completed, the two held extravagant parties, balls, and fundraisers (Adrianne was the founder of the areas Humane Society, and the building housed not only the couple but six of their dogs). The St. Georges were deeply devoted to each other, and in every room there are representations of the two, whether sculptured, painted, or created in stained glass by Mr. St. George. (Side note #1: We actually had the pleasure of being personally welcomed by Mr. St. George at the original entrance to the building, courtesy of Bob and Helen!) Mrs. St. George passed away in 2006, leaving her husband devastated. After a mourning/ healing period of five years, he returned to working on their beloved home and, in a completely different vein, created a room containing contemporary art as opposed to the period/fantasy themed rooms.

We split the day in half; first we toured a number of rooms, next we ate lunch in the castle dining room on their amazing dishware and then we completed our tour. We were able to view 22 of the home's 63 rooms (Mr. St. George and others also live there so there were rooms not open to the public) and were quite impressed by the details everywhere, from moving butterflies in the conservatory to a face in the painted clouds of a ceiling. Our primary guide was Michael Dunavant, the curator, a young man with a golden voice who has spent time performing on Broadway and who was persuaded to play the piano and sing for us; he was ably assisted by Mrs. Jean Ferris and their cohort Ryan. (Side note #2: Michael and Jean persuaded Alan to open his home to the public in July 2013, and the St. George dream of hosting parties, weddings, birthdays, and other events is being realized.)

The tour was truly an experience that we won't soon forget and our hats are off to Bob and Helen for a wonderful time!

1 comment:

PowDeb said...

Thank you Bob & Helen for arranging this great trip! It was a very interesting tour! Never expected to find a castle in Savanna, IL!
Debbie Powless