Georganne Wheeler Nixon, wife of Missouri's 55th governor, will mark her eighth and final Christmas as Missouri's first lady this December.
When she and Gov. Jay Nixon moved into the Executive Mansion on Jan. 12, 2009, she already had been a Jefferson Citian for 16 years, as her husband served as the state's attorney general.
Every first lady has put her own touch on the official residence of the state's chief executive and his family. Nixon has been no different, as she again hosts Christmas open houses at the 1871 brick landmark she and the governor have called home for the better part of a decade. They are accented because they are conducted in candlelight.
On her first Christmas in the mansion, Nixon's decorating scheme featured a variety of traditional, old-fashioned and natural items, including greenery, poinsettias, fruits and nuts, glass ornaments and white lights. Volunteer docents, as always, were on hand in 2009 and will be again this year to help Nixon describe the historical features of the old house.
The first lady has worked to coordinate the decorations, the trees and the choirs invited to entertain for the tours. The combination, she has said, "reflects the natural beauty and heritage of Christmas in Missouri. We invite families from across Missouri to join us for this celebration of faith, generosity and spirit of the season."
Last Christmas, Nixon reminded Missourians Christmas was a time to renew old traditions and begin new ones. "Two thousand years ago, the message of the first Christmas was also one of peace. In that spirit, we join all Missourians in praying for peace throughout the world," she said.
Over the past seven Christmases, Nixon has invoked similar themes in welcoming visitors into her home.
In 2014, she used her Christmas message to encourage charitable giving. "Thank you to everyone who volunteers at a food bank, donates to those affected by disasters or mentors a teen. Your gifts of time and spirit add so much," she said.
A year earlier, in 2013, Nixon remembered those in military service. "As families across the state gather to celebrate the holidays, we should also remember those many Missourians whose devotion to duty keeps them apart from their loved ones at this time of year."
In 2010, she focused her Christmas message on nature, saying, "One of the blessings of living in Missouri is the abundance of natural beauty, from the clear streams and rugged hills of the Ozarks to the rolling prairie of the north and west, to the picturesque bluffs above the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Our state parks and conservation areas are places where families can go any time of the year to hike, fish, canoe and enjoy the outdoors in many ways. These natural treasures are one of the blessings we give thanks for this Christmas."
The mansion was designed by St. Louis architect George Ingham Barnett in British Renaissance Revival style and built in seven months for $74,960, a price tag that included some of the original furnishings. It was first occupied by Gov. Benjamin Gratz Brown and his family on Jan. 20, 1872. Brown donated the four pink granite columns, which dominate the portico. The main floor of the mansion features a grand hall with 17-foot tall ceilings, two parlors, a library and a divided dining room.
First-time visitors are often struck with the tiny guest bathroom squeezed into a former alcove under the stairs.
The mansion has 13 bedrooms, none of which had closets or bathrooms when constructed. An electric dishwasher was added in 1949 and an elevator in 1958.
This year, Governor's Mansion Tours are 6:30-9 p.m. Friday and 2-4 p.m. Saturday.
Visitors to the mansion, at 100 Madison St., enter through the ornate front gate on Madison Street. Parking usually can be found within a block or two of the mansion.