Former governor’s family giving piano to mansion
August 12, 2008
The family of former Nevada Gov. Charles H. Russell is donating a Chickering Co. box piano back to the governor’s mansion after nearly 50 years.
“I always wanted it to be returned to the mansion if I could,” David Russell, the late former governor’s son, said of the restored and tuned piano that has been given a permanent place in the mansion’s Nevada Room.
“That’s where it ought to be,” he said. “It has a perfect home now.”
The Russell family, including David, brothers Clark Russell and Carson City District Judge Todd Russell, and sister Gina, plan a formal presentation to Gov. Jim Gibbons and first lady Dawn Gibbons at a private reception Aug. 22. It will then be property of the state.
“It’s a way for us to give back to the state,” David Russell said.
Dawn Gibbons said she appreciated the gesture. Mansion coordinator Helen Wiemer, who recently had the piano tuned, called it a coming home.
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Russell, 63, said his father bought the rosewood piano from a storage garage in San Francisco while buying furniture when he served as governor from 1951 to 1959.
“It was painted black, and was refinished by a (prison) trusty when my father was in office,” said the son, who lived in the mansion from age 5 to 13. He recalled his mother, Marjorie Ann, and sister playing the piano.
“We all learned a little bit on it,” David Russell said.
When the Russells left the mansion, a cousin stored it in Reno. David Russell said he retrieved it in the mid-1980s and had it in his house in Reno.
“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 served from 1896 to 1903. The mansion’s first resident governor was Denver Dickerson, who was elected in 1908.
Russell said he first offered the piano to former Gov. Kenny Guinn or the Nevada State Museum, but was told it was too big, and that the mansion already had a Steinway grand piano in the main house.
Russell’s daughter, Laurie Erin, called Dawn Gibbons, a personal friend, after Jim Gibbons was elected governor in 2006. She welcomed the donation.