By Woodrow Polston
A 30-foot Norway Spruce donated by Steve and Carla Lieble of Columbia, Mo., stood in the shadows on the mansion lawn Friday evening. A long line of people stretched down the sidewalk as the countdown to light the tree began. Three, two, one, and a collective gasp, followed by applause. After the tree and mansion were illuminated with the warm Christmas lights, Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, and his wife, Claudia, made their way inside the mansion. At 6 p.m. the doors opened for the candlelight tour of the ground floor.
Greeting visitors at the front door of the people’s house, was Santa and Mrs. Clause. One of the guests in line asked Santa if he was on the naughty or nice list this year.
“If you have to ask, then you probably already know the answer,” said Santa. Everyone chuckled, as the crowd passed through the oversized doors and made their way into the foyer.
Once inside, people were greeted by various staff members of the mansion, who were dressed in period costume to compliment the decorated rooms. There were plenty of soft lights inside, with Christmas trees standing in the windows, and fireplaces that were adorned with green garland.
“Merry Christmas,” Kehoe said, as he reached out to shake hands. He answered questions about the architecture of the mansion.
“The windows are made of curved glass in this room,” said Kehoe. “They are a unique feature, and are not easy to come by,” he added.
Going room by room on the ground floor were dozens of people who were observing the many original works of art, chandeliers, fireplaces and ornate plaster works in the ceilings. On the way back toward the foyer, the Christmas music was growing louder. It was a live performance by Randy Wright, who was playing a grand piano. Upon exiting the front door, other staff members in tuxedos wished the visitors a Merry Christmas.
At the rear of the lawn, there was a booth set up by the Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, where people could buy commemorative Christmas tree ornaments of the mansion. The ornaments, along with books and other items are sold, help to fund year-round projects at the mansion.
The mansion was completed in Dec. of 1871. It was built in only eight months, with much of the work performed by prisoners of the nearby penitentiary. The total cost, including some of the furnishings, was $74,960. Gov. B. Gratz Brown and his family moved into the mansion on Jan. 20, 1872. The mansion was designed by noted St. Louis architect George Ingham Barnett, who was born in Nottingham, England.
The architectural style chosen for the mansion, was the most popular of its time. It was known then as the Mansard Style, named after the steep roof with a low upper roof in which it was possible to create useful living space. This roof was named after Jules Hardouin-Mansart, a French court architect of the 17th century. It has also been referred to as Renaissance-Revival
Victorian. The original three-story structure was built containing 13 bedrooms, having no bathrooms or closets.
Tours of the governor’s mansion are available throughout the year. If you would like to plan a visit, you may go to Missourimansion.com for more information.