History of the Governor's Mansion
The building that visitors enjoy today has been through many changes. Since the home was built in 1871, the families who have lived in the house have left an impact, both on its design and history.
The Missouri Governor’s Mansion was designed by St. Louis architect George Ingham Barnett. The home took seven months to construct and cost $74,960 to build and partially furnish. Much of the work was performed by prisoners of the nearby penitentiary.
On Jan. 20, 1872, Gov. Benjamin Gratz Brown and his family first occupied this three-story brick building. The mansion is an example of Brick Renaissance Revival-style design and includes a Second Empire style patterned mansard roof that was popular in the 1860s -1890s.
The entry consists of an imposing portico with four pink granite columns, which were donated by Gov. Brown. This act began a tradition of each first family making a gift to the mansion. The first floor includes a 17-foot high Great Hall, two parlors, a library and a divided dining room.
The home was designed to accommodate guests and includes 13 bedrooms on the second and third floors. While the home was built with elegance it mind, like many homes of the time period, it did not have any closets or bathrooms.
The first major renovation of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion took place at the request of First Lady Jane Francis during Gov. David Rowland Francis’s term from 1889-1893. This included changes that made indoor plumbing and electric lights possible. At the time, constant locomotive traffic was having an effect on the outside of the home. This prompted another renovation to address the soot build-up on the brick — repainting the original, pink-colored brick with dark red paint.
In 1904, the first structural change to the building took place when a covered entrance was added. This allowed for guests to enter on the South side of the home. More updates to the building took place with the term of Gov. Ellion Woolfrolk Major from 1913-1917. First Lady Elizabeth Major oversaw the installation of a second floor screened in porch. Electric lights were also added outside of the building.
During the term of Gov. Lloyd Crow Stark from 1937-1941, the Mansion underwent an extensive remodel under the direction of First Lady Katherine Stark. The covered entrance was removed and a two-story addition was added. The building’s brick exterior was painted white and a new garage was built. Additional bathrooms and closets were added to further modernize the home.
Several other modern appliances and comforts were added through the years. The kitchen in the Mansion received its first automatic dishwasher in 1949. In 1958, an elevator was installed to make it easier to travel the 85 steps between the home’s three floors.
Another major renovation for the mansion took place during the term of Gov. Warren Hearnes in 1965-1973. First Lady Betty Hearnes focuses on updating the aging home. The iron work on the roof was repaired and the slate, wooden cornices and window casements were replaced. Another significant restoration from this time was the removal of many coats of paint that covered the home’s bricks, returning it to the original pink.
With several structural issues addressed, the renovation efforts during the term of Gov. Christopher “Kit” Bond could focus on the inside of the home. First Lady Carolyn Bond made sure the furniture and décor found within the Mansion focused on historic accuracy. Practical renovations were also made, adding air conditioning throughout the house and improving the temperature controls.
Repair work continued in the term of Gov. Melvin “Mel” Carnahan in 1993- 2000. First Lady Jean Carnahan oversaw a series of repairs during that time, including replacing the leaky roof, repainting its grillwork and restoring sagging ceilings. Improvements were also made to the basement, the location of staff and security offices. The Carnahans also donated the Missouri Children’s Fountain located in front of the home.
The Missouri Governor's Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.