Driving along Mountain Street in Carson City, it’s not hard to spot the Nevada Governor’s Mansion. Elegant and white, with a wrap-around porch supported by fluted Ionic columns, the two-story mansion has been home to the state’s chief executives and their families since it was built in 1909.
But interestingly, Nevadans didn’t immediately cotton to the idea of providing a home for their governors. From the founding of the state in 1864 and until the construction of the mansion more than four decades later, Nevada did not have an official Governor’s Mansion.
As a result, for more than 40 years each of the state’s governors either built his own home or rented a dwelling during his term in office.
Many of these “unofficial” governor’s mansions were quite nice — such as the one built at 310 Mountain St. by Gov. Reinhold Sadler, a wealthy businessman and rancher, who served from 1896-1903, or the Gov. John E. Jones House, at 603 W. Robinson St., which is a charming Victorian that was home to Nevada’s eighth governor (serving from 1895 to 1896, and dying in office).
Finally, in 1907 State Assembly Bill 10, known as the “Mansion Bill,” was passed by the Legislature. It directed the state to secure a site and build a permanent residence for Nevada’s governors and their families. The lawmakers appropriated $40,000 for building and furnishing the home.
Mrs. T.B. Rickey, who lived nearby, sold a site at 600 N. Mountain St. to the state for a token amount of $10 and Reno architect George A. Ferris (not related to G.W.G. Ferris, the man who invented the Ferris wheel) was hired to design the house.
Ferris also designed the McKinley Park School in Reno and the former Civic Auditorium in Carson City (now home of the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada).
The architect developed plans for a two-story, 23-room home with a large grand entry area, a formal dining room, a pair of salons, a private den, upstairs bedrooms and a large kitchen area. A large porch wraps around the second story.
The home’s exterior incorporated what historians describe as a Classical Revival style with Georgian and Jeffersonian motifs.
After soliciting bids, the state awarded a $22,700 contract to build the mansion. Construction began in 1908 and continued until early 1909.
The first chief executive to occupy the house was Acting Gov. Denver S. Dickerson and his family. His wife, Una, gave birth to a daughter, June, in the mansion on Sept. 2, 1909; she is the only child ever born in the mansion.
Dickerson opened the mansion to the public for the first time on New Year’s Day, 1910 — a precursor to the present tradition of opening the mansion to the public each Nevada Day.
The mansion has hosted 18 governors and their families since it opened. During the past century, the mansion has been renovated several times, including a partial refurbishing in 1959, a more substantial remodeling in 1967 and a $5 million reconstruction in 1999-2000, which was funded by private donations.
During that $5 million remodeling, which was privately funded, a 6,608-square-foot addition was built north of the mansion, called the Nevada Room, with a commercial kitchen and meeting space for up to 300 people.
For information about the mansion, pick up a copy of “100 Years in the Nevada Governor’s Mansion” by Jack Harpster. Published in 2009 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the house, the 256-page hardcover book explores all the governors and their families who have lived in the mansion.
The book is available in local bookstores or on the Amazon.com website.
Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada unique.