New art has been commissioned and money is being raised to preserve existing Governor's Mansion artifacts as two significant anniversaries approach for the state of Missouri and the home of its governors.
The current and some former first ladies of Missouri gathered Saturday in Jefferson City to share stories in front of a luncheon audience raising money through the Friends of the Missouri Governor's Mansion to preserve items inside the mansion.
Friends of the Missouri Governor's Mansion has been working for 45 years "to preserve the mansion's history through stewardship of the building's interior, its historical collections and educational programs," according to the First Lady Luncheon's program.
Rebecca Gordon, executive director of Friends of the Missouri Governor's Mansion, hoped earlier this week to raise about $40,000.
The current renovations underway at the mansion are being paid for by state facility bonds issued in 2015 and 2016. Gordon said the money being raised by the Friends group will be used to refurbish and restore individual items inside the mansion.
The historic collection of items to be refurbished and restored includes a 19th century Marmaduke pool table, 1904 St. Louis World's Fair furniture and carpeting in different areas of the mansion, according to a news release from the Friends group.
Gordon said the carpeting on the first floor has not been replaced since 1981, despite tens of thousands of annual visitors to the Governor's Mansion.
In 2021, the Governor's Mansion will celebrate its 150th anniversary — the same year the state of Missouri will celebrate its bicentennial.
It was announced at the luncheon Saturday the anniversaries will be celebrated by a new painting for the mansion that's been commissioned by the Friends of the Missouri Governor's Mansion and the Missouri Bicentennial Commission.
The painting's artist, Gary Lucy, of Washington, Missouri, had a pencil study sketch of the work — "Capital City River and Rail" — at the luncheon.
Lucy said the final work to be unveiled in March 2020 will be about 4 feet high and 61/2 feet wide, to be hung on the west wall of the dining room in the Governor's Mansion.
The scene in the painting is of Jefferson City in 1856, with a view from the Missouri River looking toward the state Capitol — a view based on research Lucy said he did with the Secretary of State's office and others.
In the foreground, a farm family in a rowboat is rowing toward Lohman's Landing — one man in the boat calling out to a friend in a sailboat closer to shore.
Steamboats including the Arabia and Omaha are docked at the shore, and the calm water of the river reflects the Capitol's dome, the steamboats' smokestacks, the rowing farm family and the oars of their boat.
Lucy said the objective of the painting is to show the union between rail and river travel at the time, when Jefferson City was as far west as the railroad could take passengers, and westward travelers had to further navigate the river by boat.
First lady Teresa Parson said Lucy's work came to her attention after seeing his "Eating Up the Lights" — a nighttime scene of men in a rowboat skiff guiding a steamboat safely to port.
"I was insistent upon it being a Missouri artist," Parson said of another factor in picking who would create the painting.
Lucy said he started his career painting wildlife, but he eventually turned his focus to historical interpretations.
"Capital City River and Rail" will take the place of a portrait of President Harry S. Truman, which was returned to the Missouri Historical Society when the Society's new building opened in Columbia, Gordon said.
The first ladies present on Saturday — Jean Carnahan, Lori Hauser Holden, Georganne Wheeler Nixon and Pat Wilson, in addition to Parson — all reflected on their places in the mansion's history and its place in the history of their families.
"I don't know that there is a way to prepare for it in a lot of ways," Parson answered when asked about taking on the role of first lady — though she also had 40 years of working in banking to back her up.
Carnahan said raising four teenagers probably prepares someone for most anything in life — as well as growing up Baptist — but she also learned from the triumphs and tragedies that previous first ladies had experienced.
"They survived. The house survived," she said. Her husband — Gov. Mel Carnahan — died with her son Randy and longtime aide Chris Sifford in a plane crash on Oct. 16, 2000.
Gov. Roger Wilson led the state from October 2000 to January 2001. "My first few weeks in the mansion were also my last few weeks in the mansion," first lady Pat Wilson recalled from her time in the mansion — but she added, "It wasn't about us" in the time of mourning after Gov. Carnahan's death.
First ladies Holden and Nixon lived or had lived in Jefferson City when their families entered the mansion, which they said made their transitions easier.
Holden said the family just had to move from West Main Street to Madison Street, and her boys had the same friends and continued to go to the same church.
"In a weird way, it was all sort of natural," Nixon said of the familiar surroundings.
Holden said she did have to make special accommodations for the family's dogs in the mansion's garage, to avoid them chewing or sleeping on the mansion's furniture.
First ladies also recalled guests they've hosted — famous and everyday people.
"This place impacts lives," Holden said, thanking the luncheon audience for their support — "it means so much to the community and the state."
At of the end of August, the renovation work at the Governor's Mansion was expected to be completed in late October, with public tours anticipated to probably resume after Jan. 1.