Allerton Retreat and Conference Center

A couple ventures down the Vine Walk on their way to the Fu Dog garden. In the background is the House of the Golden Buddhas. These ceramic Fu Dogs, representing mythological lion-dogs often found in Asian art to ward off demon spirits, stand on pedestals in a special garden. Originally built as a private residence by artist and philanthropist Robert Allerton in 1900, the grounds and facilities were donated to the University of Illinois in 1946. (Image by Fred Zwicky)

The beautiful but fragile country estate inspired gifts across the campaign, beginning with $1M to fund a new entrance drive to the mansion by Dave Rathje, ’59 ENG, and his wife, Debbie, who went on to contribute a second $1M for improvements to the Fu Dog Garden and mansion. The Accessible Allerton Fund, aimed at improving accessibility into the gardens, mansion and natural areas, was established through a lead gift from Sandy Haas; support for renovation of the Triangle Parterre Garden was provided by Dana Brehm and Larry Baumann, in memory of Barry Brehm, ’76 BUS. An Allerton in-residence program allowing artists and naturalists to live and create at the estate was funded, as were an accessible pathway for visitors to the Peony Garden and updates to the mansion’s Butternut Room, Robert Allerton Room and the Library. The visitor center, originally a garden shed, was updated and renamed the McCraw Family Visitor Center in honor of the donors, Thomas E., ’70 LAS, and Jessica J. McGraw, ’71 LAS. A concluding boon from David R. Taylor, ’71 ENG, provided $1.1M for upkeep of the estate.