Davis (1815-1886), a distinguished jurist, was born in Maryland
and studied law in New England. In 1836 he settled in Bloomington
and in 1844 won election as a Whig to the Illinois legislature.
Four years later he was elected Judge of Illinois’ Eighth
Judicial Circuit and served on the bench during Abraham Lincoln’s
remaining years as an attorney on the circuit. The two became close
friends, and Davis served as Lincoln’s manager at the 1860
Republican nominating convention in Chicago. In 1862 President Lincoln
appointed Davis to the United States Supreme Court. In 1877 Davis
resigned from the court after being elected to the United States
Senate by the Illinois legislature. He served as Senate president
pro tempore from 1881 to 1883.
Davis commissioned French-born architect Alfred Piquenard (1826-1876)
to design the late-Victorian style mansion, primarily as a residence
for his wife, Sarah Davis (1814-1879), who did not want to live
in Washington, D.C. Known as Clover Lawn, the mansion was constructed
between 1870 and 1872. Davis retired from the Senate in 1883 and
spent the remainder of his life at Clover Lawn.
three-story yellow brick home, east of downtown Bloomington, comprises
thirty-six rooms. The large, tree-shaded lot includes an 1872 wood
house, a barn and stable, privies, a foaling shed, carriage barn,
and a flower and ornamental cutting garden. The circular drive to
the Mansion remains as originally configured. The property was entered
on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and in 1975
was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Guided 50-minute tours are scheduled every half-hour
from the visitor center, where guests may also view an orientation
video. Visitors view twenty rooms on the second and third floors,
many of them containing pieces of high-style Renaissance Revival
furniture purchased by Sarah Davis for her new home. The site’s
visitor center is accessible to persons with disabilities.
The site hosts a number of special events, including “Mr.
Lincoln’s Birthday,” the “Glorious Garden Festival”
in June, an “Antique Car Exhibition,” and a Thanksgiving
celebration, “The Blessings of the Table,” in November.
Beginning in late November, the Mansion is lavishly decorated for
“Christmas at Clover Lawn.” Christmas “Gaslight
Tours” are also offered the 3rd Saturday evening in December.
Many programs are supported by the David Davis Mansion Foundation.