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Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, located in Vernon Hills, Illinois, was built between 1908 and 1918 and  was originally the home of Samuel Insull, a founder of the General Electric Company.  It was designed in the Italianate style by Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall and the gardens were designed by famous landscape architect Jens Jensen.

John Cuneo Sr, owner of Hawthorn Mellody Farms Dairy, the National Tea Company and the Cuneo Press, purchased the property in 1937 and lived there with his wife Julia and children John Jr and daughter Consuela.

In 2009, the Cuneo Foundation gave the 100-acre estate, a $50 million gift including an extensive collection of art and furnishings, to Loyola University Chicago. 

It was some years ago that I last visited the Cuneo Mansion, during a time when I was trying to prove that you could take a vacation and travel the world without actually leaving the Chicago area. (More of that, possibly, in a future post.)  Because of it’s architectural style I had picked Cuneo as part of the Italy leg of my trip, along with the YMCA’s Leaning Tower of Pisa in Niles.

It’s nice to see how the other half live, occasionally, and looking through the viewfinder at the paved courtyard, classical colonnade and gently weathered statuary, I could picture those elegant summer evening soirees, back in the day, with well-heeled guests strolling around the grounds, knocking back glasses of Chianti and swapping stories about the new Ferrari and the latest Elsa Schiaparelli fashions.

The Cuneo family collection of fine antiques, paintings, tapestries, sculptures, porcelain and silver can be seen when taking a guided tour of the estate and although it isn’t possible to take pictures inside the mansion there are still plenty of opportunities to photograph the exterior of the building and surrounding grounds and gardens which I understand have recently undergone some restoration work.

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