Family of late governor donates piano to mansion
August 11, 2008
A Chickering Company box piano has made its way back to the Nevada Governor’s Mansion after nearly 50 years.
As a gift from David Russell, son of the late Gov. Charles H. Russell, and the Russell family, the restored and tuned piano has been given a permanent home in the Nevada Room of the mansion.
“I always wanted it to be returned to the mansion if I could,” Russell, 63, said. “That’s where it ought to be.”
Russell said his father was buying furniture for the mansion when he bought the piano from a storage garage in San Francisco. Russell was in office from 1951-1959.
“It was painted black, and was refinished by a trusty when my father was in office. It’s made of rosewood.”
When the Russells left the mansion, the piano ended up with one of David’s cousins in Reno, in a storage facility.
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“I took it out about 1984 and had it in my house in Reno,” David said. “It stayed there until we moved about two years ago. What I didn’t know at the time, the piano was owned by another Nevada governor, Gov. Reinhold Sadler, who was in office in the late 1800s.”
Sadler was in office from 1896 to 1903. The mansion’s first resident governor was Denver Dickerson in 1909.
The Russell family will formally present it to Gov. Jim and first lady Dawn Gibbons at a private reception Aug. 22. It will be property of the state.
“I originally tried to give it to Gov. Guinn or the Nevada State Museum, but was told it was too big, and there was no need for a piano in the mansion,” said Russell.
A Steinway grand piano sits in the main house of the mansion.
Russell’s daughter, Laurie Erin, is a personal friend of Dawn Gibbons, and gave her a call about the piano.
“Dawn said she was thrilled and fell in love with it when she saw it,” Russell said.
“I’m very appreciative of the Russell family and honored and thrilled they gave us a piano that was once in the Governor’s Mansion,” Dawn Gibbons said.
David Russell lived in the mansion from the age of 5 to 13. He recalls his mother, Marjorie Ann, and sister Gina, playing the piano.
“We all learned a little bit on it,” he said. “It’s a collective gift from the Russell family.”
The family includes David, his brothers Clark Russell and Judge Todd Russell, and sister Gina.
“It’s a way for us to give back to the state,” David said. “It has a perfect home, now.”
Mansion Coordinator Helen Wiemer recently had the piano tuned.
“It’s quite regal sitting there,” Wiemer said. “This is sort of a coming home for it. I think it’s wonderful.”
Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at email@example.com or 881-1223.