Katie Micik

April 20, 2009

Briggs Mansion

This is a story that ran on the front page of the Rockford Register Star about the restoration of a home built in the Civil War era and its conversion into a banquet facility. The total package included three beautiful photos that helped readers see what the story described. I still really like the descriptions in this story.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

City: Rockford
State: Illinois
Section: Business
Page: 1, 3
Source: Rockford Register Star
Publication: Rockford Register Star
BRIGGS MANSION | OPEN FOR BUSINESS
New banquet hall in old house

ROCKFORD — At Briggs Mansion, it’s all in the details.

Like original plaster medallions around light fixtures that took more than 120 hours to scrape clean with a dental pick before they could be repainted.

Or the two front bannister posts that took eight types of trim and two weeks for a professional carpenter to assemble.

Or the 52 green and cream corbels, the ornate supports between the roof and the mansion’s outer walls, that took three months to paint.

Restoring the home to its 1863 grandeur was the first step in Bob and Nelly Raleigh’s and sister Michelle Seyller’s plan to create a banquet facility.

“It’s a new venue for celebration,” Nelly Raleigh said of the mansion, 1244 E. State St. “We have always had this type of venue in mind, but Rockford didn’t have anything. We saw this house was for sale and we fell in love with the idea.”

The mansion opened this month and can handle a hundred people for wedding receptions, banquets, seminars and other events. It has four main entertaining rooms with original pocket doors — doors that slide into the wall — a more casual room for a bar, a caterer’s kitchen, bridal suite and grand foyer.

Rockford event planner George Lerret said the average size of a Rockford wedding is 200 people, which would be hard to accommodate without one large room. He has been planning events in Rockford for more than 20 years.

“It would be good for a grazing wedding,” Lerret said. “It would be good for showers, an ideal place for a bridal shower.”

The three bought the home in October 2005 for $196,500 according to county records. They began restoring it in November, a project they originally thought would take four to six weeks.

“I’m a roofer,” Bob said. “I’m used to opening a can of worms. I wasn’t planning on it being this big.”

He said they pushed back the time line and spent multiple times the cost of the house on restoration, which may be seven figures when everything is complete in several years.

“You have to do it right,” he said. The home has been taken care of, but 144 years of upkeep and attempts to modernize have made restoration an arduous task.

“I’m an architectural purist,” Bob said. “We didn’t want to destroy the architectural integrity for our grand business adventure.”

The 18-inch thick walls of the Italianate style home soften the screaming ambulance sirens from SwedishAmerican Hospital across the street. Inside they are painted a soft, neutral beige to allow flexible decorating for events instead of colored, patterned Victorian wallpaper.

Nelly Raleigh said when they couldn’t keep the decor traditional, they aimed for classic and elegant.

“Our goal is to share this gem with the community and the city,” Nelly Raleigh said. “When people walk into the house, we want them to feel like they are stepping back in time.”

Reporter Katie Micik may be reached at 815-987-1364 or at kmicik@rrstar.com

Briggs Mansion history

The Briggs Mansion was built between 1861 and 1863 by Rockford banker Chester C. Briggs, using bricks, fireplaces, woodwork and other items brought in from Milwaukee. Briggs spent $10,000 to build the home.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy a house built during the Civil War in Rockford,” co-owner Bob Raleigh said.

Briggs moved to Rockford from Vermont to become president of Briggs, Spafford and Penfield bank, which later became Third National Bank.

The mansion was sold by foreclosure to James Linnus Sherman in 1892 for $3,500. Sherman was one of the carpenters who built the house.

Members of the Sherman family lived in the home until 1995, when it was sold for $146,350.

The Raleighs purchased the home in October 2005 for $196,500 and started renovations to turn it into a banquet facility.

To tour the house

For an appointment to view the house, call Michelle Seyller 815-968-2744 or go to briggsmansion.com on the Web.

Photo Captions:
JOHN F. ELBERS II | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR

A plaque states the history of the Briggs house on East State in Rockford.

JOHN F. ELBERS II | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR

Bob and Nelly Raleigh, along with Michelle Seyller have completely renovated the Briggs Mansion on East State in Rockford, which is open for business as a banquet facility.

JOHN F. ELBERS II | ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR

Michelle Y. Seyller (left), Nelly Raleigh and Bob Raleigh have completely renovated the Briggs Mansion at 1244 E. State in Rockford and are open for business.

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