Tourist In Your Own Town: Governor's Mansion

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, August 17, 2006

No one has lived in the historic governor’s mansion for more than 30 years.  But for our special guide, the mansion is home:
Welcome to California’s historic governor’s mansion…My name is John Casey, and I’ll be your guide today….
Casey is the grandson of Governor Edmund G. Pat Brown, and he spent time visiting the mansion for the first six and half years of his life. Last October, at the age of 45, he came back as a Docent, who gives tours upon request: 
Thirteen governors have lived here since 1903, from Governor George Pardee and his family, on up through Governor Ronald Reagan, his wife Nancy and their two children.
Why don’t we step this way and we’ll go inside the main house…
The house was built 129 years ago for a private owner.  It was sold to the state in 1903 to be used as the governor’s home.
Coming across the hall from the formal and informal parlors, you’ll notice the music room….
Old-time music plays in the music room, where the main feature is a 1902 Steinway piano.  Casey used to pound the keys as a child, never realizing the company he was in: 
 I’ve come to learn through reading the history of the mansion, that Liberace played the piano, Frank Sinatra played the piano, Beverly Sills was in this room, so there’s quite a bit of history of famed personalities who have been in this house and have played on this piano…
 As an adult, Casey rarely sits down to play, but today, we’re in luck.


When I sit down, I try not to think about Frank playing the piano or I couldn’t even touch it.  But I feel pretty honored to play on the same instrument that he did.
Casey gets up from the piano bench, which is carefully covered with tissue paper, and turns to head upstairs….. 
We’re going upstairs now to the second floor, please watch your step… 
Upstairs is the master bath, built in 1877, one of the first 50 bathrooms in the United States. 
You’ll notice the toenails on the bathtub, they’re painted red, the clawfooted tub, apparently my Aunt Kathleen, decided one day to take it upon herself to paint the toenails of the clawfoot tub, so here they are, still painted red. 
That would be Kathleen Brown, daughter of Governor Edmund Brown and sister of Governor Jerry Brown.
While we can’t visit all of the mansion’s 30 rooms and 9 bathrooms, there is one place that is special to Casey. It’s an unpretentious room downstairs, where the children ate all their meals -- the breakfast room.   You can hear the drone of a large, 1930’s air conditioner coming from the servant’s quarter’s above. 
In the room is a picture of John F. Kennedy eating breakfast at the table, which is set exactly as it was during his visit to the house as a Senator in 1960.    Casey finds the room full of memories.  
As a child, of course, I wasn’t really aware of who President Kenndy was .Coming back here as an adult, I realize the historical significance of having John Kennedy visit California.  The exact chair as well as the fabric that’s covering the chair is exactly the same one he sat in when he was here.  Now knowing the history of President Kennedy and his untimely death, it’s, I don’t know, it’s, very, very significant. 
The last governor to live in the mansion was Ronald Reagan, whose family stayed for only three months because the house had been deemed a fire hazard. California’s Department of Parks and Recreation took it over after that, converting it to a museum, but leaving it much as it was when the Reagans left.
Today the house needs a little work, and John Casey wants to create a foundation to raise money to repair it:

It’s very important to preserve this house.  This is the one and only historic governor’s mansion in California.  There currently is no governor’s mansion.  This is what we have.  This house has been here since 1877.  And I think it’s extremely important that we honor the house and respect the history.
For visitors to the house, there will eventually be a new sight to see.
Workers are renovating the third floor, which has never been open to the public before.  It features a grand ballroom with elaborate flooring and 14 foot ceilings.