Virginia Governor's Mansion - The Home of The First Family
History of the Virginia Governor's Mansion
The Virginia Governor’s Mansion is the official residence for the Governor and his family.
“Virginia’s Executive Mansion has been home, office and center of official entertaining for governors and their families since 1813. It was the second governor’s residence constructed in the nation, and is today the oldest governor’s residence still used for its original purpose.” Quote courtesy of: (www.executivemansion.virginia.gov/History/)
Governor Thomas Jefferson suggested that the Capital be moved from Williamsburg to Richmond, because it would be further away from a British attack by sea and because it was in a more centralized location. So, in 1780, Richmond became the official Capital of the State.
This was a fine idea, except for the fact that no official residence for the Governor existed in Richmond. So, Governor Jefferson had to rent a house. Towards the end of the 1700’s, a wood frame dwelling was erected to house the Governor and his family.
Housing for the Governor, and his family, was a problem, again, in 1811.
“In 1811, Governor John Tyler, Sr., arguing before the Legislature that the house was “intolerable for a private family,” brought about the decision to build the current residence. Under James Monroe’s direction and as his last act as Governor, the General Assembly directed 'the building of a house for the use of the governor of the commonwealth, on the lot on which the present governor’s house stands.' ” Quote courtesy of: (www.executivemansion.virginia.gov/History/)
Governor James Barbour, who served from 1812-1814, was the first Governor to live in the newly constructed Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
Tour the Virginia Governor’s Mansion
In addition to being a State historical treasure, the Virginia Governor’s Mansion is a home. Like any private citizen, with a home of their own, the Virginia Governor’s Mansion is the home for the Governor and his or her family.
However, as a historical treasure, it also belongs to the citizens of the Commonwealth, and as such, it is open for guided tours, at no charge.
The Virginia Governor’s Mansion is located in Capitol Square, behind the historic Capitol Building. There is no official parking lot available, so your best bet for parking is one of the parking lots, or garages, located in the area, for which there is a charge. The website for the Virginia Governor’s Mansion (www.executivemansion.virginia.gov/Tours/), offers a list of parking facilities in the area. You can also look for a parking spot on one of the surrounding streets, but typically parking is restricted to a maximum of two hours. If you choose street parking, you will need quarters, dimes, and nickels for the meters. And be sure to keep track of your meter time.
The Virginia Governor’s Mansion is generally open for tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 4 pm. When planning your trip, to tour the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, it would be advisable to call ahead of time to make sure that tours will be available on the day you plan to come. Sometimes, because of other functions, tours must be cancelled for the day. For more information, the Virginia Governor’s Mansion can be reached by phone at ‘804-371-8687,’ and their web address is (www.executivemansion.virginia.gov/).
Your Tour of the Virginia Governor’s Mansion
When you enter the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, through the front double doors, you will be in the Entrance Hall. In days gone by, when the Governor used the office in the home, this was the waiting area for people wanting to see him. Now, it is used as an area to welcome visitors to the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
Upon entering, you will be able to see through the expanse of the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
While the furniture and furnishings are real period pieces, they are not all original to the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. And while visitors are not permitted to enter the individual rooms downstairs, they are open for the use and pleasure of the Governor and his family, as this is their home.
Immediately to the left of the Entrance Hall is the Governor’s Office. It was here, that the early Governors worked and met with people, to conduct the business of the Commonwealth.
On the right of the Entrance Hall is the Ladies Parlor. Here, the First Lady would entertain the wives of the men who were waiting their time to see her husband, the Governor.
Continuing through the Entrance Hall, there are matching alcoves, one on each side, with a staircase leading up to the second floor. The Virginia Governor’s Mansion is a two storied home, with the second floor containing the private living quarters of the Governor and his family. The second floor is not open to the public for touring.
As you move further into the home, there is large open area, extending from one side of the house to the other side. Previously, this area had been the dining room and a parlor. However, in 1906, a new State Dining Room was added onto the back of the house, allowing these two open spaces to function as a Ballroom.
An interesting note about the new State Dining Room is that, because of the shape of the remaining property, at the back of the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, the State Dining Room had to be constructed in the shape of an oval.
After your Virginia Governor’s Mansion tour, which takes about 25 minutes, take your time and walk around the Capitol Square. Spend time studying the many monuments and statues in Capitol Square. Next, stroll down to the Public Entrance to the Capitol, which is on Bank Street, and schedule a Capitol Building Tour. There is no charge for this tour, and you will learn much about the Old Dominion’s history. During this tour, you will walk where many of the Founding Fathers of this country have walked.
Before leaving Capitol Square, visit the old Bell Tower, which is now a Visitor Center for Virginia Tourism. The staff there will be able to help you plan your other stops in Richmond and around the state.
Whether you’re a native Virginian, getting in touch with your roots, or a visitor from another state or another country, please make time to visit the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.
Historically, Virginia, as one of the Thirteen Colonies, was a major player in shaping this new nation. And as Virginia played a major role in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, so did its Governor, and the home he lived in – the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. As a proud American and Virginian, I welcome you to my State, and encourage you to visit the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.