Mansion History

Mansion Exterior - 1928
Mansion Exterior – 1928
  • 1928 –More than two decades after Oklahoma became a state, the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion is finally constructed. With a limited budget of $75,000, the Mansion is much simpler and smaller than the original concepts. Its 14,000-square-foot interior is divided into 19 rooms, including a library, parlor, dining room, grand ballroom, kitchen, sunroom, and five bedrooms.
  • October 11, 1928 –Governor Henry Simpson Johnston and his family spend their first night in the newly completed Governor’s Mansion. With no neighbors in close proximity and no telephone yet installed, it is a quiet night for the First Family.
  • 1930 – First Lady Amy Holloway hosts the first public open house at the Mansion, offering Oklahomans a look at the completed mansion and newly landscaped grounds.
Quilting Bee - 1931
Quilting Bee – 1931
  • 1931 – First Lady Alice Murray invites one woman over 70 years old from each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties to participate in a quilting bee at the Mansion.
  • 1935 – Oil is discovered underneath the Mansion, and Governor Ernest Marland allows oil production—despite objections from surrounding residents. As many as 24 oil wells can be found pumping simultaneously from beneath the Capitol and Mansion grounds.
Mansion Open House - 1953
Mansion Open House – 1953
  • 1950s – First Lady Willie Murray hosts weekly open houses at the Mansion, welcoming more than 60,000 visitors over the course of her husband’s administration. Up to 2,000 cookies are baked for the popular event each week, served with coffee in cups stamped “Just Plain Folks.” 

    First Lady Murray is also the first governor’s wife to spearhead significant redecorating and remodeling at the Mansion, enlisting Oklahoma A&M College students to modernize the kitchen.
  • 1959 – After lawmakers resist funding a complete renovation of the Mansion, hundreds of volunteers pitch in to clean, paint and update the aging residence for newly elected Governor J. Howard Edmondson and his family. First Lady Jeannette Edmonson estimates that volunteer labor and donated materials, services, and equipment saved taxpayers $65,000.
  • 1964 – During a trip to Oklahoma, President Lyndon B. Johnson lands on a newly constructed heliport at the Mansion. The concrete slab subsequently became a tennis court on the southeast corner of the grounds.
  • 1967-1968 – Assisted by a new “Friends of the Governor’s House” committee, First Lady Ann Bartlett spearheads an initiative to make the Mansion historically significant. The group assembles a collection of historic mementos, art, furniture, and more from previous Oklahoma governors.
The Needle Point Chair - 1972
Needlepoint Chair – 1972
  • 1972 –A prestigious group of Oklahoma women is selected to make 12 needlepoint chair covers for the Mansion dining room. Each cover depicts a symbolic image from the state, including the state flag, the Oklahoma State Seal, multiple Native American tribe seals, and the state flower, bird, and tree.
  • 1976 –The Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1977 –The Mansion serves as the site for the wedding of Governor David L. Boren and Judge Molly Shi, marking the first time in Oklahoma history that a governor is married while in office.
  • 1979 – After years of debates and setbacks, the Legislature authorizes $98,000 worth of renovations to the Mansion. Governor George Nigh and his family move back into their home across Oklahoma City while the work is completed.
  • 1980 – First Lady Donna Nigh reinstitutes open houses at the newly renovated Mansion, installing a ramp to make the site more accessible. The weekly open houses are extremely popular, attracting as many as 20,000 visitors annually. 
  • 1981 – Exactly 50 years after the 1931 quilting bee hosted by First Lady Alice Murray, women from around the state gather at the Mansion to piece together a Diamond Jubilee quilt in honor of Oklahoma’s 75th birthday. The quilt features a square from every county in the state. 
  • 1980s – A privately funded swimming pool in the shape of the state of Oklahoma is added behind the Mansion in honor of the Nigh family.
  • 1987 – Governor Henry Bellmon and First Lady Shirley Bellmon move into the Mansion, becoming the only couple in state history to live there twice. Governor Bellmon served as governor from 1963-1966 and was elected a second time after serving as a U.S. senator. 
Youngsters line up for a tour of the Governor's Mansion - 1980s
Local students gather for a tour of the Governor’s Mansion – 1980s

Late 1980s – First Lady Bellmon leads several initiatives to enhance the historical value of the Mansion, including expanding the Wednesday open houses to include educational tours. Determined to recreate a set of missing doors above the dining room, she takes a special class in working with leaded glass and completes the project personally.

1994 Love Always Sculpture
In 1994, Governor David Walters and First Lady Rhonda Walters commissioned the creation of the “Love Always” sculpture, which was installed on the Mansion grounds in honor of the children of past, present and future Oklahoma governors. The statue was created by Lena Beth Frazier, an internationally known Oklahoma sculptor who passed away in 2003.
  • 1994 –Governor David Walters and First Lady Rhonda Walters commission the creation of the “Love Always” sculpture, which is installed on the Mansion grounds in honor of the children of past, present and future Oklahoma governors. The statue is created by Lena Beth Frazier, an internationally known Oklahoma sculptor who passed away in 2003.
  • 1995 – First Lady Cathy Keating plans a public housewarming event, encouraging Oklahomans to donate furnishings and other items that can remain permanently in the Mansion. She also registers the Mansion with leading furniture and department stores, with items ranging from napkins to area rugs. More than 2,500 people attend the housewarming event, bringing luxurious gifts, meaningful art and unique mementos.

    Later that year, Friends of the Mansion is established and a major $1 million renovation of the 67-year-old Mansion begins. Countless individuals and organizations donate their time, talent and other gifts, successfully restoring the Mansion to its original glory while also adding many modern conveniences.
Punchbowl - 1996
Punchbowl Replica – 1996
  • 1996 –Weekly tours resume, and the Mansion’s transformation earns accolades from Oklahomans and the media—including Architectural Digest, which features the renovation in its April 1997 issue and states, “…the mansion has been transformed from generic blandness into an Oklahoma icon.”
  • 1996 – A replica of the sterling silver punch bowl originally commissioned for use on the battleship USS Oklahoma is unveiled at the Mansion. The original punch bowl, valued at over $600,000 but heavily damaged after decades of use, is placed on display at the Oklahoma Historical Society.
  • 1997 – The Friends of the Mansion’s first commemorative holiday ornament is created, depicting the Mansion on its 70th anniversary. 
  • 1998 –The 4,700-square-foot Phillips Pavilion is built east of the Mansion, creating a much-needed space to host large groups and special events. The pavilion is named for Phillips 66, the early oil company that drilled one of the first wells on the grounds of the Capitol complex.
China - 2000
Oklahoma State China – 2000
  • 2000 – A new State of Oklahoma china set is produced by Lenox for the Mansion. The china, designed by Tulsa Porcelain Artist Ronda Renner Roush, is rich with symbolism borrowed from the Osage Shield, a well-known and well-loved “jewel” of Oklahoma heritage emblems. Adopted in 1925, the Osage Shield art honors more than 60 groups of Native American Indians and their ancestors. The china also reflects the Dutch architectural styling of the Mansion, melding Oklahoma symbolism with European refinement and formality.  
  • 2004 A History of the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion is published in partnership with the Friends of the Mansion and the Oklahoma Heritage Association (now Oklahoma Hall of Fame). The 200-page book showcases the rich history of the Mansion and each First Family who has called it home since 1928. The book is filled with stunning photographs, surprising stories, and a comprehensive history authored by Betty Crow and Bob Burke.
  • April 6, 2007 – On the grounds of the Mansion, Governor Brad Henry and First Lady Kim Henry plant an offspring of the Survivor Tree. The iconic American elm tree famously survived the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and serves as a powerful symbol of resilience and hope.
Steinway Grand Piano - 2007
Steinway Grand Piano – 2007
  • 2007 – In honor of Oklahoma’s Centennial Year, a 1907 Steinway Grand Piano, completely refurbished by the Steinway Furniture Company, is purchased and displayed in the Mansion’s foyer. Funding for the historic piece is raised by Governor Brad Henry and First Lady Kim Henry. 
  • 2007 – The Mansion’s basement is redesigned to be a state-of-the-art media room for the enjoyment of future First Families, thanks to funds raised by Governor Brad Henry and First Lady Kim Henry. 
  • 2017 – A beautiful outdoor kitchen is constructed on the Mansion grounds for future First Families, thanks to private funding raised by Governor Mary Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen.
Mansion Exterior - 2019
Mansion Exterior – 2019

2019 – In cooperation with the State of Oklahoma, First Lady Sarah Stitt launches an extensive renovation initiative at the Mansion.

Mansion History Book

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