In 1907, when Oklahoma and Indian Territories merged, Oklahoma became a state. However, for more than two decades, the state’s governor lived in private residences or hotels. Work was moving ahead on the state capitol in 1914 when a site for the mansion was designated on Northeast 23rd Street. However, this location remained a grassy field as the Oklahoma State Legislature debated over how the construction would be funded until 1927.
That year, due to a roaring oil boom, which included a producing well on the south lawn of the capitol, all questions regarding the state’s ability to fund the mansion stopped. The legislature allocated $100,000 of state money – $75,000 for construction and $25,000 for furnishings – to the project. Two years later, another $39,000 was set aside to complete the outbuildings and landscaping.
Oklahoma City architectural firm Layton, Hicks and Forsyth, built the Dutch-Colonial style residence. Carthage limestone was used so the exterior would complement the State Capitol, the mansion’s neighbor to the west.
Today, the residence has 12 rooms. However, in October 1928, when the home was dedicated, its 14,000-square-foot interior was divided into 19 rooms, including a library, parlor, dining room, grand ballroom, kitchen, sunroom and five bedrooms.
A major renovation of the mansion was undertaken in 1995, during the term of Governor Frank Keating. Oklahomans were invited to participate in the effort and many responded enthusiastically. Individuals and organizations donated time, talent and gifts, and successfully restored the mansion to its original glory, while simultaneously adding many modern conveniences.
Extensive structural work was needed to maintain the kitchen’s capability of preparing state dinners. However, the existing rose granite countertops – from Granite, OK – installed in the early 1990s were preserved.
During past administrations, the main floor library was often altered to reflect design trends of the day. Today, the room’s walnut paneling and molding have been restored to both their original luster and the room’s 1928 color scheme of rich burgundy, gold and green. In addition, leaded glass doors, which were removed in the 1950s, have been returned to the library’s bookshelves. On the shelves an impressive collection of work, consisting of information on Oklahoma or written by Oklahomans, is displayed.
The dining room features the walnut buffet and table pedestals original to the mansion. Smiley’s Inc., of Sand Springs, OK, made this room’s cut-glass chandelier in the 1960s. The eight dining chairs each feature a hand-stitched needlepoint seat cover depicting the state seal, the seal of one of the Five Civilized Tribes or a state emblem. The 34 other Federally recognized Oklahoma NA tribe names are needle pointed on two additional chairs.
Throughout the mansion, artwork and antiques provide visitors with a fascinating glimpse into the state’s history and culture. Permanent donated art from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries has replaced most of the works on loan from museums and private collections.
Artists represented in paintings and sculptures include Frederick Remington, Wilson Hurley and Charles Banks Wilson. When state functions are hosted in the mansion, as many as 60 people can now be seated in the third-floor Grand Ballroom. In fact, during renovations the entire third floor was enhanced to make it as functional and inviting as possible. This included raising the stairwell ceiling to make it more accessible.
A Persian Dorokshe area rug now accents the ballroom’s original maple floor. And, the ballroom windows, chandeliers and elaborate moldings are replicas of the 1928 originals.
In May 1998, The Phillips Pavilion, a 4,700-square-foot covered facility, was built east of the mansion, adjacent to the swimming pool which is shaped like the state of Oklahoma. The pavilion was named for Phillips 66, the early oil company that drilled one of the first wells on the grounds of the Capitol complex.
Established in 1995, the mission of Friends of the Mansion is to assist in providing for the preservation and improvement of the historic Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion and its grounds; to purchase furnishings and other property necessary for the occupancy of the Mansion; and to educate the general public regarding the history of the Governor’s Mansion and the State of Oklahoma.
Each year, Friends of the Mansion spearheads multiple preservation and improvement projects on the Mansion grounds, as well as overseeing multiple events.
First Lady Sarah Stitt, Chair
James Pickel, Board President
Cassie Reese Tipton
Former First Lady Donna Nigh
Former First Lady Cathy Keating
Former First Lady Kim Henry
Former First Gentleman Wade Christensen
Tammie Brown joins Friends of the Mansion as the new executive director. Tammie will be responsible for the daily operations of the organization. She holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and has many years of experience promoting destinations, managing projects and more.