After we arrived in Columbia, Ruth and I learned that you can tour South Carolina’s Governor Mansion. Ruth called and inquired about this and was told that tours were not available on the only day we could do it, so Ruth had both a contact and a challenge. We ended up seeing it because a gracious woman named Nancy agreed to give us a personal tour at 2 pm on that unavailable day. The tour was quite interesting, and I got to wondering how many states offer Governor Mansion Tours. I have been in only one other Governors Mansion during my travels, the one in Sacramento, California. When I learned that tours of it were no longer available, I had a challenge too.
Nancy is proud of the fact that she has served 6 South Carolina Governors. There were 2 whose names I recognized: Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley. The only other politicians from this state with familiar names were John C. Calhoun and Strom Thurmond, who was a U.S. Senator for 48 years. There’s a statue of him outside the State House and a tribute that lists his other accomplishments. Mark Sanford was the Governor who survived scandal yet revived his career. According to CNN, Sanford’s “…political career was left for dead along the Appalachian Trail after an extramarital affair.” Sanford disappeared in 2009. When he showed up again, he said that he had been hiking the Appalachian Trail but later confessed that this was not true. He has since said that “…testosterone can get you in trouble.” Indeed. It took him 4 years to regain voters’ trust. He is now a U. S. Representative for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Nikki Nimrata Haley, daughter of Sikh immigrants, was South Carolina’s Governor until Donald Trump named her U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Some, especially South Carolina women, think she will be the first female President.
44 states provide an official residence for their Governor. The 6 that don’t are Arizona, Idaho, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and California. But that information from Ballotpedia is no longer true. California’s is newly occupied. When we toured it, it was not. Ronald Reagan was the last Governor to reside there until 2015 when Jerry Brown moved in. It was empty, except for tourists and their guides, from 1967 until the Browns got the key. In his 4th term as Governor, Brown, his wife, and 2 dogs moved in after extensive renovations had been made. I have not been able to determine, yet, how many Governors’ Mansions are available for public tours, but I do know that Michigan provides its Governor with 2 residences, one in Lansing, the State Capital, and a summer home on Mackinac Island.
Illinois was the 1st state to provide its governor with an official residence in 1855. The next year Texas did too. South Carolina was #3. In 1868 Arsenal Academy left the property and the Governor moved in. During the Civil War Union troops burned all of the Academy’s buildings except for the Officers’ Quarters, which became the residence of the Governor.
Nancy showed us the Hall of Governors, a lot of valuable period furniture, the Palmetto Dining Room, a classy punch bowl, some period wallpaper (seen below), etc. We met the current Governor’s dog. It was a very pleasant hour.