Location: Capitol Campus
Women’s History, Diversity: Chinese

mansion thenGovernor’s Mansion 1955, photo from Digital Archives governors mansionGovernor’s Mansion today (2010), photo from Governor’s Mansion Foundation

Text and page researched and written in 2012 by Christina Schaller, Olympia Historical Society/Olympia Heritage Commission intern

The responsibilities of governing a state as large as Washington are numerous, but it does have its perks. One perk which I consider to be the best, is the privilege (and requirement) to live in the Governor’s Mansion. This 19 room house was designed in 1908 by the architectural firm Russell and Babcock of Tacoma. Washington was amongst the first 20 states to provide governors with housing during their term in office.

The need to provide housing for governors of Washington State arose when Governor Albert Edward Mead was expected to raise his five children, a garden, pets, cows and chickens and provide for his wife, Mina Jane Hosmer Pifer Mead, all on a monthly salary of $333.33. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the fact that Governor Mead was also expected to entertain guests in this home. Realizing the governor’s predicament the state of Washington built a $35,000 Georgian style mansion to house each governor during their term of office. [However, Governor and Mrs. Mead never occupied the mansion, as he was defeated in the primary before the building was completed.]

The mansion is presently [written in 2012] occupied by Governor Christine Gregoire and her family. The historic integrity of the home has been carefully preserved; the front exterior of the mansion looks exactly as it did in 1908. The interior was remodeled dramatically by First Lady Nancy B. Evans, who created a nonprofit organization that raised funds specifically for the restoration of the home. At that time, about 4,000 square feet were added to the rear of the building. After the remodeling in 1975 the home has only had slight alterations made by each governor.

The location is significant for women’s history as well as Chinese-American history: Washington’s first female governor, Dixy Lee Ray, lived here from 1977-1981, as does the current governor  [written in 2012], Christine Gregoire. The nation’s first Chinese-American governor, Gary Locke, and his wife Mona Lee Locke, occupied the house from 1997 to 2005.

For more information follow these links:

Governor’s Mansion Foundation

Historylink article

Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation inventory 

Photographs of the Mansion from Digital Archives (some of my favorites): GM1, GM2, GM3, GM4, GM5, GM6

Boba, Eleanor, The Governor’s Mansion

Washington  State Historical  Society photographs (items in bold face have scanned images associated with them), enter the following catalog numbers in Collection Search box: 1981.94.489, 1943.42.14644 (Ashel Curtis photograph shortly after completion); C1982.18.29.7

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross