California’s iconic, 138-year-old governor’s mansion, commanding a busy downtown intersection less than a mile from the Capitol, is getting spruced up and may even become home, once again, to California governors.
Gov. Jerry Brown, 77, increasingly interested in history, family and tradition, isn’t saying whether he and his wife, Anne, intend to live there during his fourth and final term in office, which ends in January 2019.
Joe Steffens lived there with his wife and four children, including young Lincoln Steffens, who later gained fame as a muckraking journalist.
But the gleaming white, 30-room home – a State Historical Park – has been shuttered and work is under way on improvements and repairs. The mansion is about four blocks from the loft where the governor currently lives.
The home “has been in need of repair to comply with fire and safety codes,” Brown spokesman Evan Westrup wrote Thursday in an email. “For that reason, repairs were initiated – and continue – to ensure the mansion is suitable for many uses, including as a possible residence for Governor Brown and future Governors and their families.”
The work is expected to be completed within the next year. Westrup told the Sacramento Bee that Brown and his wife have “consulted with the project team and shared some general thoughts” about the renovation.
During the five decades after Gov. Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy refused to live there – after a four-month stint, she called it a “noisy firetrap” and they hastily fled in 1967 for leafy East Sacramento – a succession of governors shunned the stately home at 16th and H. No governor has inhabited the residence in 48 years.
The house was built in 1877, then sold a few years later to Joe Steffens, who lived there with his wife and children, including young Lincoln Steffens, who later gained fame as a muckraking journalist.
The state bought it as an official residence in 1903 for $32,500, or about $800,000 in today’s dollars.
Brown, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger – all stayed elsewhere.
Brown, first elected in 1974 and then a bachelor, took a 1,450-square foot apartment at 1400 N Street across from Capitol Park, while Deukmejian, Wilson and Davis lived in a sprawling, ranch-style home east of the city. Schwarzenegger kept a suite at the Hyatt Regency on L Street across from the Capitol.
Earl Warren, his wife and six children lived there, and that was his address until he was appointed chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In all, 13 California governors used the Victorian mansion as their official residence.
The last governor to inhabit the mansion for his full tenure was Gov. Pat Brown, Jerry Brown’s father, who walked across H Street in his robe each morning to swim in the Mansion Inn pool. The Mansion Inn is long gone, and its successor, the Clarion, closed three years ago. But the intersection is busy: 16th street is a major commute corridor and H Street, which runs east and west, is clogged at rush hour with cars streaming some 50 feet from the front door and only a few feet from the main gate.
Nearby is a Hollywood Inn Express motel, and a block away is a Goodwill Industries express pickup.