Nebraska’s First Governor’s Mansion

Nebraska has had two official gubernatorial mansions, the first purchased in 1899, the second built in 1956. The first building was a two-and-one-half story, gabled-roofed frame residence on the southwest corner of Fifteenth and H streets in Lincoln, immediately east of the present mansion. Peg Poeschl’s “Housing Nebraska’s Governors, 1854-1980,” which appeared in the Fall 1980 Nebraska History magazine, described the neoclassical revival structure and the official life which filled it for over fifty years.

The outside featured “a two-tiered, wrap-around veranda of Doric columns linked by balustrades. The first floor consisted of a reception hall and stairway finished in oak, a front parlor and sitting room in maple, a sunporch, a dining room, a small luncheon room, the kitchen, and the pantry. The second story contained four bedrooms, two with adjoining Mexican onyx bathrooms, a smoking-room, and servants’ quarters. The entire third floor was given over to a ballroom and the basement contained a laundry, wine cellar, and manservant’s quarters. The house, served by six fireplaces, was sold to the state with many of its late 19th-century furnishings intact, including most of the silverware, china, table linen, carpets, curtains, tapestries, rugs, and even a piano.”

Poeschl noted, “Nebraska’s first Governor’s Mansion was the site of a multitude of events, local, national, and international in character. From 1900 through World War II, Lincoln, with the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion at its center, was a hub of great social and political activity.” In the course of fifty-seven years (1899-1956), the first mansion served seventeen of nineteen governors. During these years the Nebraska Legislature repeatedly allocated money for the building’s upkeep and improvement. However, by 1953 the mansion was showing its age and deemed too small for many official functions. It was decided to construct a new mansion rather than to again purchase and refurbish an existing house, and in 1955 the Legislature passed LB 361 to provide for the planning, construction, landscaping, equipping, and furnishing of a new residence for Nebraska’s governors.

The old mansion was demolished, but its paneling and one fireplace were salvaged, as were bath and plumbing fixtures, kitchen cabinets, range tops, and lumber. At least one settee, two chairs, and a piano were transferred to the new mansion. The Nebraska State Historical Society received a few items, and the rest of the furnishings, nearly three hundred pieces, were sold at auction in 1956. A citizen unable to attend the auction could write to Governor Victor E. Anderson for a memento, perhaps a piece of wallpaper or possibly a gavel carved from the wood of the old mansion.

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