Destination Illinois: Bloomington’s David Davis Mansion

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WTVO) — Clover Lawn can be found on Bloomington south side. It’s a Victorian mansion built nearly 150 years ago, and home to a man who changed American history.

Clover Lawn was the home of David Davis, Davis was an attorney, judge, legislator, land owner, U.S. Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Senator. But the most prominent of his titles ought to be “close friend of Abraham Lincoln”. Davis and Lincoln became close because they rode the 8th Judicial Circuit together.

“They were the only two to ride the entire circuit, twice a year, three months in the spring and three months in the fall,” site supt. Jeff Saulsbery said. “So, if you are with someone every single day and every single night and you eat together, you’re going to know each other, whether you like it or not.”

At the Republican National Convention of 1860, Davis managed Lincoln’s campaign for the presidential nomination, holding back some support on the first ballot so he could release it on the second, showing Lincoln was apparently gaining votes.

By the third ballot, Lincoln was the Republican candidate for POTUS. Lincoln admitted that without Davis, that wouldn’t have happened.

In 1862, Lincoln appointed Davis to the U.S. Supreme Court. After Lincoln’s assassination, it was David Davis who was executor of Lincoln’s estate.

In 1872, Davis built Clover Lawn for his wife Sarah, who didn’t want to go to Washington. Davis left the court to become the U.S. Senator from Illinois. After one term, he returned to Bloomington and his expansive home: Clover Lawn.

Davis died in Bloomington on June 26, 1886, outliving his friend Lincoln by more than 20 years. At the time of his death, he was the largest landowner in Illinois.

You can visit his Bloomington home Wednesdays to Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Clover Lawn, isn’t just a well-preserved Victorian home. It’s one of the “150 great places in Illinois” according to the American Association of Architects.

The Davis family was wealthy, so the home was well ahead of its time by having indoor plumbing, central heating and hot and cold water on tap.

Sarah Davis was an avid gardener and her floral designs remain on the property.

“It is exactly the same now as it was back then,” master gardener Kay Henrichs said. “[Including] 18 original plants.”

Local gardeners support the restoration of the home with an annual garden walk.

Clover Lawn is also the site for a British Car Club show in early June, an historic bicycle show in July, and come December, it’s time for a Victorian Christmas at the home.

There have even been private events at the mansion. Although the Davis family is gone from here, their home still lives on, hosting 40,000 guests a year.

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