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Illinois governor's mansion to reopen to public in July

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Illinois first lady Diana Rauner says the governor's mansion will reopen in July, more than a year after the beginning of an extensive renovation process.

Rauner spoke Tuesday at the Illinois Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism in Chicago. She said the Executive Mansion in Springfield will reopen July 14 for public tours.

"The last time it was really restored was in 1972. ... And since then it's been a bit of a metaphor for the state," Rauner said. "If you don't patch your roof, then the water will come in and it will flood your basement and rot out your walls. Sound like something familiar?"

The mansion will include a visitor center, exhibits highlighting 1893's World Columbian Exposition, Illinois life during the Civil War, children who have lived in the mansion and an "Art of Illinois" project that showcases more than 100 pieces of fine art throughout the building.

The reopening marks the end of a $15 million renovation that included installing a new roof, HVAC system and entrance to the building. Rauner said the renovations ensure the mansion complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"One of the most appalling things and embarrassing thing, really for us as a state, was that there's a sign on the outside gate that said if you are in need of a wheelchair ... too bad," she said.

Rauner said the "decades overdue" renovation with private funds will improve the Springfield visitor experience while giving the Executive Mansion equal footing with other high-profile state government buildings.

The building has served as residence for Illinois governors for more than 160 years. A spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner said the couple plans to move back in sometime this summer before the reopening.

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