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Historic Mansions, Newly Open for Events, Make Dramatic Settings

Historic Mansions, Newly Open for Events, Make Dramatic Settings

These three historic homes, beloved by locals and tourists alike, have recently opened their doors to the special event market.


ADDRESS: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108; 626/405-2100


AT HOME WITH: Weddings only

THE BACK STORY: The Huntington was founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington, a savvy businessman with a passion for books, fine art and gardens. Comprising three areas — the Library, the Art Collections and the Botanical Gardens — the Huntington campus bespeaks refinement. A renowned research center, the Library contains roughly 6 million tomes, while the Huntington Art Gallery — originally the family residence — boasts an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century French and British artworks, among them Gainsborough's “Blue Boy.” However, it is the 120 acres of lush, themed gardens that win over the hearts of most visitors — and most recently, brides.

HOUSE RULES: A longtime favorite spot for wedding photography, the gardens of the Huntington are now available for weddings and receptions up to 500 guests. The hefty $100,000 site rental fee limits the Huntington to just a few high-end weddings per year, and includes scheduled access for vendors for setup and tear-down, scheduled access for guests the day of the event, choice of location(s), an engagement portrait session and a wedding photography session. On-site catering is available, but outside caterers also are welcome. All weddings must be coordinated through one of the Library's three exclusive event planners. (See Web site for details.)


ADDRESS: 25 E. Erie St., Chicago, IL 60611; 312-482-8933


AT HOME WITH: Intimate social and corporate events

THE BACK STORY: The former home of banker and liquor magnate Samuel Mayo Nickerson, this magnificant mansion is one of the grandest residential buildings of 19th century Chicago. Today, it is a showcase for Belle Epoque art and design, including master works by Emile Gallé and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

HOUSE RULES: The Driehaus Museum, which opened its doors to events just this fall, can be rented any day of the week for a fee ranging from $3,500 to $16,500, depending on event space, day and time of day. Nonprofits enjoy a reduced rate. The rental rate includes the facility as contracted, mandatory security, museum docent(s), a special event staff member, a facility operations staff member, general maintenance of the museum, and two hours of setup and tear-down time beyond the three-hour block of special event time. The Driehaus has exclusive contracts with four caterers and one rental company. A variety of rooms are available for meetings, seated luncheons, dinners and cocktail receptions. The maximum capacity at any event is 50.


ADDRESS: Armed Forces Retirement Home, Washington, DC 20011; 202/829-0436


AT HOME WITH: Small to medium-sized social and corporate events

THE BACK STORY: Located on a hilltop overlooking Washington, this 1842 Gothic Revival-style home was used by the Lincoln family as their summer retreat during the Civil War years. The property also includes the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center, a 1905 Beaux Arts style building, and lushly landscaped grounds.

HOUSE RULES: Only recently open to the public, both historic buildings as well as the gardens can be rented and tented for special events accommodating up to 250 guests. Rooms in the Cottage can host groups of 50, 80 and 100 guests while rooms in the Visitor Education Center can host 40, 65 and 100. Site rental fees range from $5,000 to $10,000 for the Cottage, $250 to $2,500 for the Visitor Center. Guests wishing to host an exclusive event may rent out the entire site, including the grounds, for a 12-hour period at the rate of $12,500, which includes some rental equipment.

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