Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version * * * “REWIND”
February 1, 2014
New York State Executive Mansion
(Note: While serving as President of the Warren County Historical Society, I was invited to the state capital building for a conference sponsored by Governor Andrew Cuomo on his “Path Through History” program which is an initiative to place new signage highlighting historical spots around the state. Unfortunately, Warren County is an area where none of the new signs have been or will be placed at this time. As funding is available, the program could be extended into our county. At the end of the day-long conference, attendees were invited to a reception at the Executive Mansion, the home at 138 Eagle Street in Albany. I was able to take some photographs that I thought I would share with you). Stan Cianfarano, Past President
Built originally in 1856, the Executive Mansion at 138 Eagle Street in Albany has been home to New York governors since 1875. (Photo courtesy of NY Archives)
The mansion at 138 Eagle Street was built in 1856 for Albany businessman/banker Thomas Alcott on land originally owned by Isaac Denniston. Covering approximately six acres in downtown Albany, the present mansion was originally built in the Italianate style. The house has undergone several major renovations and reconstructions. In the 1870s it was reconstructed into the French Empire style with a mansard roof. Governor David Hill had renovations made in the Queen Anne style in 1887, as it is today. The beautiful home is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1875, Governor Samuel Tilden leased the home for $9,000 a year. The state did not yet provide a home for its governor. Each was responsible for finding housing on their own. Two years later, in 1877, the state bought the home Governor Tilden was leasing for $45,000, and since then, it has been home to 31 governors and their families.
The mansion has 41 rooms. When it was purchased, books, kitchen utensils, decorative objects including small sculptures, and some furniture pieces were included with the sale of the house. Each governor since who has lived in the home has added furniture, artwork and individual touches to the home. There is a fine collection of artwork, most of which is on loan from some of New York’s finest museums. The grounds include an indoor swimming pool, and outdoor pool and pool house, greenhouses, tennis courts and a rose garden.
The Great Hall looking into the Drawing Room.
The window seat in the Memory Room.
Since 1875, it has been a mostly full-time home to the Governors and their families until 1994 when Governor George Pataki chose not to live in the mansion. Many people in the state were not happy with Governor Pataki’s position. (It is interesting to note that according to the Times Union, when Andrew Cuomo and H. Carl McCall were campaigning before this last election, they both went on record saying that if elected they would make the Executive Mansion their full-time, permanent home, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has not moved into the mansion.
The breakfast room, used for luncheons and informal meals was once an open porch that was enclosed in one of the many renovations.
Close up of the china on display. The plate on the second shelf from the top, in the middle, is the china ordered from Sicily by Governor Dix’s wife, Gertrude.
The mansion was home to three men who became President of the United States: Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It also served as home to two local men, Charles Evans Hughes and John Alden Dix.
Glens Falls native Charles Evans Hughes, 36th Governor of New York State. Federal service included 11th Chief Justice of the Untied States, and 44th Secretary of State. A stone marker with a brass plaque can be found in City Park recognizing Hughes as a native son of Glens Falls.
A fire in 1961, when Nelson Rockefeller was governor almost led the state to getting rid of the mansion. The fire started in the basement and burned up through the third floor. Governor Rockefeller and his wife were forced to flee the house out a window and over the roof.
Governor Alden Dix from Glens Falls.
At the time, there was a contingent of people who thought it was time New York provided a newer, better house for the state’s chief executive. Ultimately, Governor Rockefeller convinced people that renovation was the way to go. The Rockefeller family donated many fine pieces of furniture and fixtures to the mansion following those renovations.
The 1945 Steinway piano donated by Governor Rockefeller.
While the sitting governor’s family has access to the entire home, much like the White House, the downstairs rooms are the public rooms. The rooms include a dining room, which has a table that would seat 24 comfortably when fully extended. There is a less formal dining room that at one time was an open porch. In 1917 it was enclosed and made into the breakfast room. The breakfast room serves as a place for lunches, less formal dinners, and as the first family’s eating area. It also is where the former governors’ china collection is displayed.
The drawing room with FDR’s portrait over the fireplace.
The dining room with the table set for the reception.
The Memory Room, a family room/library, and the Great Hall are also part of the public rooms. The Memory Room gets its name from when Franklin Roosevelt lived in the mansion. He tried to establish a small museum in the setting with artifacts from the various governors who had lived in the mansion. Over the years it has served as a reception room and several times has served as the governor’s personal office. The family room/library is a small, cozy room for the first family. In addition to the books, it has a television and comfortable seating. The Great Hall, traditionally part of the Queen Anne style, is a large open area used for receptions.
The breakfast room. You can see part of the Governors’ china collection in the back right.
The Great Hall. The drapes at the far end are actually in the drawing room. There is a lot of room for milling about.
Perhaps the nicest room on the first floor is the drawing room. A portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt hangs over the fireplace in the room where many governors over the years have traditionally over the years taken the oath of office.
On one of the shelves in the library is this picture of Governor Cuomo and Al Gore. It is signed, “To my friend and ally Andrew Cuomo. Your advice and wisdom made all the difference in St. Pete. Thanks! Great job! Al Gore”
A close up of the FDR painting in the drawing room.
While we were not permitted to go upstairs in the mansion, we were told about a beautiful guest room there. Called the ‘Princess Suite’ since Princess Beatrice of the Netherlands stayed there, it was a stopping off place for many famous people. Some of the famous visitors who stayed in the Princess Suite include Sir Winston Churchill, Robert and Ethel Kennedy, Harry Belafonte, Richard Byrd, Albert Einstein, King Frederick and Queen Ingrid of Denmark, Prime Minister Golda Meir, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, President and Mrs. George W. Bush, and Presidents Richard Nixon, William Howard Taft, and Harry Truman.
Some of the food set out for the reception.
The centerpiece and more food.
One table was set with just desserts.
Until Governor Cuomo or the next governor moves in, the house remains open for state functions. An organization called the Executive Mansion Preservation Society, headquartered in New York City, was formed to oversee the mansion. The society raises money for the rehabilitation of the mansion and coordinates the architecture, design work and decorative arts collection at the governor’s home. The mansion is open for tours but you need to call ahead.
Charles Evans Hughes home at birth.
Charles Evans Hughes’ Glens Fall home is quite different from the mansion he lived in as Governor. Now located on Center Street in Glens Falls, the home was moved from around the corner on Maple Street. A Brass marker on the house indicates it was the Hughes boyhood home. (Photo courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society).
The former home of Governor John Alden Dix on Ridge Street in Glens Falls.
The driveway up to the Executive Mansion.
© February 1 2014, Warren County Historical Society
This article was prepared by Dr. Stan Cianfarano for the Warren County Historical Society. All photos, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Dr. Stan Cianfarano.