What’s gargantuan, gorgeous and gratuitous?
The Georgia Governor’s Mansion! That’s right! The Governor’s Mansion is absolutely free to tour and hosts regular visits throughout the year. If you live near your state capitol, odds are you have a governor’s mansion to tour. If not, a local public building or historic home will do. Many places offer free or discounted tours for youth.
In our home state of Georgia, the Governor and his wife throw open their doors and welcome the public to their beautifully decorated home at Christmas. Living fairly close, we decided to check out the mansion one recent December morning and were pleasantly surprised!
After driving along a fabulous street with enormous and exquisitely landscaped residences, we approached the mansion on the left. An attractive iron and brick palisade ran along the perimeter of the property. Just east of the expanse of lawn and trees, we came to a small drive with a gate station attended by GHP officers. Upon passing a simple inspection of credentials, we parked right on the grounds, close to the home. It certainly wasn’t your Disney World parking lot with trams and a long wait. Instead, lovely magnolias and large oaks greeted us as we stepped from our truck and ambled past a school bus and a couple dozen vehicles. The small crowd seemed to be moving toward the front door, and there, after a short wait of about 10 minutes, we saw the Georgia First Lady herself.
My youngest was decked for the occasion.
He looked up at me and asked, “Mom, who is the lady greeting everyone at the door?”
I whispered back, “That’s the Georgia First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Deal.”
“Oh!” he retorted with a goofy, surprised kind of smile.
When it was our time to approach the threshold of the home, my guy looked up and simultaneously, but cautiously shook the hand of the esteemed greeter. As a surprise, the first lady looked down at him and said, “I live in this house. Perhaps one day you will live in this house too. But you gotta study hard and you can’t be mean, ‘cuz nobody’s going to vote for someone who’s mean.”
That’s a curious thing to say, I thought. But, certainly not untrue.
My boy nodded, smiled and quipped back, “I’m really mean!”
Now, I thought he was going to say something like, “Yes, Ma’m!” However, my children master the art of sarcasm quite early, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was slightly concerned how she might receive this.
Evidently, she must be familiar with 10 year old boys because in the next second, she started up with a gleeful and endearing sort of laugh that seemed to last a full 20 seconds!
We stepped inside.
Once inside, my son thought a minute and then asked, “Can we go back and take a picture with Mrs. Deal?”
I guessed that last exchange of dialogue and laughter convinced my boy that the two now shared a sort of bond.
“It couldn’t hurt to ask,” I said, thumbing in my purse for my iPhone. I love a good photo opportunity and a challenge.
“Would you mind a quick photo?” I asked with slight apprehension, trying to cover my embarrassment.
She grinned. “Why certainly,” was her response.
This is how we began our lovely tour of the mansion!
The Georgia Governor’s Mansion was built in 1967. It is an impressive, three story Greek Revival home with 30 Doric columns surrounding the porches. Each of the columns is made from California Redwood. Once inside, we were hosted by volunteers who gave us little tidbits about each of the rooms, furniture and decorations. In front of one broad fireplace, we ran into two lovely volunteers wearing colonial era clothing. In the vast dining room, we took in the Federal period furniture and state chinaware. We soon discovered that each room was decorated according to a different region of the state. One tree was embellished with popularly grown Georgia products, like cotton, pecans, peaches and peanuts. Another was decked in Coastal Georgia ornaments such as shells and starfish.
After working our way through the first floor, we went down a flight of stairs and into the basement where we were greeted with cookies, punch and a local student choir. It was a very festive way to spend a December morning. This is definitely one trip we’d like to repeat! It was really quite memorable and, best of all, it was free!!!!