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Long a landmark of scenic Dwight, Illinois, The Country Mansion has had a colorful and productive past, and since 1980 has been on the "National Register of Historic Places." Built in 1891, this grand Victorian was originally a Scott House, a twenty room boarding house located one block northeast of its present location. According to town historians, in 1894 the three-story structure was moved by the use of horses to its current site, which at that time was the grounds of the Keeley Institute, an internationally known alcohol recovery hospital.
In 1895, the home was elaborately renovated under the direction of Joliet architect Julian Barnes to become the residence of John R. Oughton, one of the founders of the Keeley Institute. It then became known as "The Manse." The April 6, 1895 issue of the Dwight Star and Herald reported, "The Scott House will not know itself when the changes are made. The residence and all the barns and out houses are the outhouses are to be moved and the grounds made into a beautiful park ... the very best materials and the very best work throughout is provided for and the design is elegant. We understand the improvements will cost over $20,000 when finished." Upon completion there were twenty rooms on the first two floors, including servant quarters and an additional five rooms in the basement, including a bowling alley, engine room, vegetable room, and ballroom, as well as a very roomy attic.
In 1896, the Windmill, which is now the centerpiece to a scenic new park adjoining the Mansion grounds, was constructed to supply water for the Oughton estate. Placed on "The National Register of Historic Places" in 1980, it was donated to the Village in 2001 by Mike and Bev Hogan and beautifully restored in 2006.
Changes continued to "The Manse," and in 1930 it housed Keeley patients and was known as "The Lodge." In 1939, the town and the Keeley Company celebrated the institute's sixtieth at this site and dedicated a bronze memorial plaque with the likeness of its three founders which remains on the grounds today. With the closing of the Keeley Institute in 1966, the home was transformed into "The Lodge Restaurant." In 1977, it was purchased by the Ohlendorfs, remodeled and reopened as "The Country Mansion."
The east porch now serves as the main entrance into the Mansion dining areas. Overlooking the lovely wedding gardens, it offers a vista ablaze with colorful perennial gardens, a charming bridal gazebo, and emerald lawns shaded by ancient trees.
The interior has retained and enhanced the original Victorian appointments, which include a high barrel ceiling hallway, and dining rooms with elegant coffered ceilings, dentil moldings, leaded glass, and built-in oak sideboards. A romantic lounge features two inviting fireplaces and mahogany double doors opening to a delightful al fresco dining area.
To the rear of the mansion, an expansive addition known as the Garden Room offers two walls of towering multi-paned windows with breathtaking views of the magnificent grounds plus the adjoining new park and historic Windmill, probably the prettiest in the country. This sought-after facility provides an idyllic setting for many formal occasions including weddings, anniversaries, conferences, and balls.