This article was syndicated from the The New Mexican, click here for the original article
By: Robin Jones | For The New Mexican
Posted: Saturday, July 26, 2008
What do Princess Grace of Monaco and Ted Nugent have in common? They both were guests at the New Mexico Governor’s Mansion, enjoying the magnificent view of the Ski Basin, the city lights and, over drinks and dinner, memorable Santa Fe sunsets.
They and other visitors, both local and international, have admired the house, artwork, and grounds — and so can everyone else. The Governor’s Mansion is a place of beauty and history to be shared by all.
1 Mansion Drive has been the home to the governors of New Mexico and their families since 1955. Docent Ed Benrock notes this is the third official residence, the first being the Palace of the Governors on the Plaza (the oldest public building in America) and the second being a residence downtown near the Capitol.
The Palace of the Governors was built in the early 1600s as a series of governmental buildings spanning the north side of the Plaza. It was inhabited by New Mexico’s various governments until the 1880s. By then, it was badly in need of repair. In his biography Lamy of Santa Fe, Paul Horgan notes a “progressive movement” sought to tear down the old adobe structure and erect a newer, more modern look. Archbishop Lamy added his voice to the many opposing such a move. In 1909, the historic building became a museum.
In the early 1900s, the governor was housed at 424 Galisteo St., near the capitol building. (A new capitol building had been erected in 1886 but burned down mysteriously in 1892. The Federal Court House was the temporary home for legislation until 1900, when the structure that became the Bataan Building was established as the capitol.)
This second governor’s mansion looked a bit like Tara, from Gone With The Wind, with big white columns fronting the main entrance. The grounds were filled with shrubs and flowers — of special note was the dahlia garden and the fish pond. The mansion — filled with beautiful furniture, pets, parties, dances, and, when the children were young and lively, escapades — provided a comfortable home for the governors and their families for more than 30 years.
But by the early 1940s, the house was becoming decrepit, the foundation was sagging, the wiring was unsafe, the plumbing lamentable. According to Eunice Kalloch and Ruth T. Hall’s The First Ladies of New Mexico, one of then-Gov. Edwin Mechem’s children announced, “The place stinks!” And, unfortunately, it did; the basement had flooded.
It wasn’t until 1950, however, that the Legislature allowed funds of $100,000 for the construction of a new residence. In the meantime, a house on Old Pecos Trail served as the executive residence. The land for the new mansion was donated by former Gov. John Dempsey (1943-1947) up on Bishops Lodge Road, and the house was finished in 1955. This was the age of the automobile and the governor no longer had to walk or ride a horse to work; it now was acceptable for the governor to live away from the Capitol.
Opened by Dee Johnson
The current governor’s mansion is a modified territorial style with wide windows, deep portals and brick cornices. Like most New Mexico houses, it expanded as more room was needed and like many New Mexico houses, it doesn’t have halls, just new rooms attached directly onto the standing structure. The first family to live there was that of John F. and Ruth Simms; in residence with the governor and first lady were their five children, a cat, several dogs, horses and a burro.
The current house is 12,000 square feet divided between the public area, the private living quarters, a guest area and security. It sits on 30 acres. The original donation was 10 acres, with the increase in land both donated or purchased. The grounds include a tennis court and stables, but no swimming pool — a good thing in a drought-conscious area such as Santa Fe.
The mansion is maintained by the New Mexico Governor’s Mansion Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization “whose responsibility is for the design, furnishings and perpetual upkeep of the public areas of the Mansion.”
The house became more than a home when the mansion was opened to the public by Dee Johnson. Visitors range from those on a mission — to see every governor’s mansion in the country — to school children on assignment, to visitors who are so taken with the residence and its docent staff they come back to visit — sometimes with cookies.
1 Mansion Drive is New Mexico — full of culture, history, art and the personal touches of the families who have lived in it. As you walk into the foyer, you pass over the New Mexico seal — a Mexican eagle grasping a snake in its beak, shielded by the American eagle, which grips three arrows — on a rug ordered by Jerry and Clara Apodaca (1975-1979). Art on loan from individuals, galleries and museums is on all the walls. On a small table to the side sits a porcelain bowl, a present from then-President Bill Clinton to Bill Richardson.
To the left of the foyer is the mansion director’s office. Straight ahead is the living room decorated in tones of beige, cream and clay; it’s a long, broad area with a grand piano, couches, fireplace, and again, art everywhere.
First lady Barbara Richardson enjoys eclectic art and has furnished much of the residence with objects from the New Mexico Folk Art Museum. A marble table from the Belen marble quarry is situated in the middle of a cowhide rug, both representing New Mexico enterprises. Black clay burnished pots from Christine Naranjo and Mary Cain are at one end of the room; at the other end is a century-old Apache basket made of sumac.
The dining room is grand and its ceiling boasts painted vigas planned by E.D. Shaeffer, who saw the design on a castle in Madrid, Spain.
The dining room table is a host’s dream — locally made from pine, it can comfortably seat 22. The Richardsons have dinner here when they are both home, dining on Lennox china, Wallace flatware and Fostoria glassware, all provided by the Mansion Foundation.
Overhead, a tin chandelier by Gary Blank illuminates the table, while a Gregory Lomayesva sculpture stands on a nearby pedestal. Docent Nancy Flint points out the oldest piece in the house, a side table from South America.
The dining room was not originally part of the house; in the late 1950s an outside portal was enclosed as the residence was used more and more for state entertainment.
The kitchen is large, as befits a governor’s mansion and its entertaining. Former first lady Clara Apodaca remembers feeding her brood of five there. “One thing we always tried to do was have dinner in the large round table in the kitchen with the children; that was important to us,” she said. “We might go to an event afterward but we always tried to have that family time.”
The large table has been moved out of the room, replaced by a cozy kitchen table at which Barbara Richardson frequently lunches, chatting with cook Lupe Jackson and executive chef Marianne Deery. On the wall above the table hangs a gift from the Zuni High School graduating class of 2006, a blue clock that minds time for governor, family and staff.
Passing through the kitchen into the den, one is surrounded by New Mexico art and gifts. Large paisley velvet lounging chairs rest atop an abstract rug by Joan Wiseman from The University of New Mexico, so that one can comfortably view a painting by Cliff (Bill) Schenck, a one-time student of Andy Warhol’s.
Nearby, in startling contrast to these governor-sized chairs, is a small wooden chair, which Ed Benrock says would fit the normal-sized person of New Mexico 200 years or so ago. It looks like a child’s chair now, and Ed emphasizes the different health and age expectancy for today’s New Mexican citizens compared to those who used to sit in that chair.
On the wall is a sketch of horse figures by Luis Jiménez; on another wall is a bulto of Santa Librada by Jose Ortega. And in another corner — every child’s delight — is a large woolly lamb, made by Felipe Archuleta, to remind visitors that New Mexico is also sheep country, not just cattle country. Two needlepoint pillows, made by the Needle Point Society of New Mexico, are propped against a couch.
The private quarters for the governor and family which are exactly that — private — to supply some much-needed peace and quiet to the residents. The rooms go through renovations with every new occupant, as each new governor and spouse have different needs for family, offices, studios, pets or libraries.
Moving in is hardly peaceful and quiet, though.
“I had been to the Governor’s Mansion before but I had not been given an extended tour, so I was not really prepared when we moved into the mansion on December 31, 1974,” Clara Apodaca remembers. “We were all packed up and ready but the mansion wasn’t ready for us. The carpets were still wet from being cleaned. Now, it’s customary that the governor gets sworn in at the mansion at midnight. So our first day at the mansion meant that we began entertaining, probably over 500 people that first day. And the second day was all the people from out of town after the inauguration.”
Barbara Richardson recalls her moving-in experiences: “The Johnsons were very kind and gave both of us a tour of the mansion in mid-December of 2002. Dee gave me suggestions on how she personally dealt with issues relating to the mansion and its upkeep. It took a while to move in because the private area was totally unfurnished. It had been renovated during the Johnson term and they brought in their own furniture for the remainder of their time there.
“Bill and I bought furniture for the space,” she adds, “which we have given to the state for future occupants. We also mixed in our own furniture, books and things from the sale of our house which we’ll take with us when we move.”
The Richardsons are known for establishing an elegant and patriotic air to their home within the mansion. They especially enjoy using the backyard during the summer and fall. And they share personal touches throughout the public part of the house — photographs of a relaxed and smiling Bill and Barbara Richardson, arm in arm; art from their private collection; and Bill Richardson’s prize, a guitar signed by band members of the Eagles.
The mansion has hosted a wide variety of guests.
“We had parties for our own children, but also many functions of being Governor and First Lady,” Clara Apodaca says. “One of my favorite memories was when Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco came to town. They brought their three children, and our children were there, so the kids all got together and played in the backyard. We sat and had margaritas and dinner. We toasted, we exchanged gifts, and the princess and I had a wonderful time talking about the arts.”
Mansion made available
Mary Brophy has served as mansion director since the start of Gov. Richardson’s second term. She’s in charge of all activities involving the public aspect of the mansion, from buildings and grounds maintenance to contract work and event planning. With all that on her plate, she says, it’s pretty much “go, go, go!”
While all the work is satisfying, she enjoys the events the most, she says. “My favorite events are those which involve children. They get such a thrill out of being here.”
But even more satisfying, she says, is the staff and the governor and first lady. “We all work so well together, and governor and Mrs. Richardson are so gracious to us. They make it clear that we, the staff, are the stars of this place; we always feel appreciated.
From 1950 on, diplomats from North Korea to Britain, movie stars, business executives, artists, writers, newscasters and newsmakers have passed through the mansion doors and enjoyed its hospitality. “Everyone who comes here has a good time,” Brophy says, “whether they’re taking a tour or someone famous.”
Barbara Richardson noted that while the house is the residence of the governor, “it is also a public building, which people feel privileged to use for their special occasions or just to visit.” To this end, the mansion has been made available to community groups and local events, from the Lady Lobos to a Girl Scout Reception for Distinguished Women.
In a 2004 news release, Gov. Richardson declared that “the mansion was meant to be a place to showcase New Mexico, a place to promote our state and our people. It is the people’s house.”