Built by Oklahomans for Oklahoma
In 1907, when Oklahoma and Indian Territories merged, Oklahoma became a state. However, for more than two decades, the state's governors lived in private residences or hotels. Work was moving ahead on the state capitol in 1914 when a site for the mansion was designated. But this location remained a grassy field, and the Oklahoma State Legislature debated over how the construction would be funded until 1927.
That year, due to a roaring oil boom, which included a producing well on the south lawn of the capitol, all questions regarding the state's ability to fund the mansion stopped. The legislature allocated $100,000 of state money -$75,000 for construction and $25,000 for furnishings- to the project. Two years later, another $39,000 was set aside to complete outbuildings and landscaping.
An Oklahoma City architectural firm, Layton, Hicks and Forsyth, built the Dutch-Colonial style residence. Carthage limestone was used so the exterior would complement the State Capitol, the mansion's neighbor to the west.
Today, the residence has 12 rooms. However in October 1928, when the home was dedicated, its 14,000-square-foot interior was divided into 19 rooms, including a library, parlor, dining room, grand ballroom, kitchen, sunroom and five bedrooms.
A Colorful History
There are those who say the spirit of Governor (1931-35) William H. (Alfalfa Bill) Murray still inhabits the mansion. One of the state's most colorful leaders, there's no question he had the type of will and personality that definitely left its mark on people and places.
At one point, Governor Murray allowed the mansion's lawn to grow knee-high, saying, "Lush crops become more lush if they're allowed to go and seed." His tenure was during the Depression, a time when many people were going hungry. So, he brought a team of mules to the mansion and personally plowed much of the lawn, converting the grounds into a vegetable garden where the poor were invited to plant potatoes to help feed their families.
During the term of the next governor, well-known oil baron E.W. Marland (1935-39), oil was found beneath the mansion and a producing well was added to the grounds. In fact, scores of derricks dotted the Capitol grounds throughout the oil boom years of the 1930s and '40s.
Originally, the west entrance was used as the front door. However, that door faced a road that remained unpaved for 24 years - making it a hazard to guests until a paving project in 1952 finally cored the situation. The north entrance now serves as the official front door.
In the 1960s a helipad was hastily constructed at the southeast corner of the mansion to give then-President Lyndon Johnson's helicopter a convenient place to land during a visit to Oklahoma City. Upon his departure, the concrete surface was converted into a tennis court.
Private donor paid to have a swimming pool in the shape of the state of Oklahoma constructed on mansion grounds in the 1970s. Twenty years later, during Governor David Walters' administration, a wall was removed on the second-floor of the mansion, turning what had previously been two rooms into one expanded family room.
Today, Governor Fallin and her family live in the five rooms on the second floor. All key furnishings on the floor were donated by Oklahomans and, as property of the state, will remain with the mansion.
A Home Restored
A major renovation of the mansion was undertaken in 1995, during the term of Governor Frank Keating. Oklahomans were invited to participate in the effort and many responded enthusiastically. Individuals and organizations donated time, talent and gifts, and successfully restored the mansion to its original glory, while simultaneously adding many modern conveniences.
As renovation efforts were undertaken on the mansion, FRIENDS OF THE MANSION, INC. was formed to help maintain the house and its furnishings for future generations. Members of this organization work to raise money, and to allocate donations, art exhibitions and special event at or for the mansion.
Extensive structural work was needed to keep the kitchen capable of preparing state dinners. However, the existing red and black granite countertops - from granite, Oklahoma, of course - installed in the early 1990s were preserved.
During past administrations, the main floor library was often altered to reflect design trends of the day. Today, the room's walnut paneling and moldings have been restored to both their original luster and the room's 1928 color-scheme of rich burgundy, gold and green.
In addition, leaded glass doors, which were removed in the 1950s, have been returned to the library's bookshelves. On these shelves an impressive collection of work, consisting either of information on Oklahoma or written by Oklahomans.
The dining room features the walnut buffet and table pedestals original to the mansion. This room's current cut-glass chandelier is a replica of a former fixture. The eight one-of-a-kind dining chairs each feature a hand-stitched needlepoint seat cover depicting either the state seal, the seal of one of the Five Civilized Tribes or a state emblem.
Throughout the mansion, antiques and artwork from both museum and private collections can be found. These often provide visitors with a fascinating glimpse into the state's history and culture.
Artists represented in oil and bronze include N.C. Wyeth, Charles Russell, Thomas Moran and Albert Beirstadt.
When state functions are held in the mansion, as many as 60 people can now be seated in the third-floor grand ballroom.
In fact, during renovations the entire third-floor was enhanced to make it as functional and inviting as possible. This included raising the stairwell ceiling, to make it more accessible.
A Persian Dorokshe area rug now accents the ballroom's original maple floor. And, the ballroom windows, chandeliers and elaborate moldings are replicas of the 1928 originals.
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