Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 209 - Visiting the Governor's Mansion

I have never visited the Wisconsin governor’s mansion. While this is not something I ever intended to do, and unexpected change of plans for this weekend left me looking for a local way to gain a new experience this Saturday. As a result, I began doing a little bit of research a few days ago until I happened upon a notice the governor’s mansion would be open this weekend for a holiday themed tour. Realizing the event gave me a chance to experience a location that is otherwise closed to the public and keep my “I have never...” year rolling, I decided I would make a trip to the mansion a part of my journey. As a result, I convinced Rachael to join me this morning as I made my first ever trip to the Wisconsin governor’s mansion.

Open the gate!
In preparation for our trip to the governor’s mansion this morning, Rachael and I bundled up in as many layers as possible to face the bitter cold that has been gripping Madison as of late. Despite our efforts, the freezing air gave us both a chill as we made the short trip to the governor’s mansion. Upon arriving, Rachael and I were greeted by some police security monitoring the property who told us we would have to wait at the gates for several minutes before we could enter. While it wasn’t the warmest welcome on our first visit to the governor’s mansion, I understood the need for the security given the divisive nature of politics in the state of Wisconsin in the last three years. As a result, Rachael and I did our best to keep moving and stay warm until we were finally given clearance to enter the mansion grounds.

The mansion
Walking toward the massive white structure, Rachael and I looked at the details of the opulent building entrance glowing in the early morning sun. Behind four towering white pillars, a white washed wall decorated with festive affair flanked either side of a single glass door opaque with wisps of frost. Having never been so close to the building before, I paused briefly before it and cast my eyes across the finer details of the exterior. While I could have stayed and looked over the building for some time, the cold caused Rachael to continue through the front door, which told me I should likely follow as to not raise unnecessary suspicious about my hesitance in entering the building.

A blast of wonderfully warm air struck us as we entered into the governor’s mansion and were greeted by an older woman in a winter sweater. With a smile on her face, she welcomed us and pointed out a few features of the entrance hall before handing us a pamphlet regarding the history and decorations in the home. I glanced around at the ornate stone and wood surfaces the wrapped into two symmetrical staircases climbing to the building’s second story. Acknowledging the fact the upstairs was understandably close to visitors, Rachael and I promptly moved through the house as directed, which brought us through a small seating nook and into the mansion’s dining room. The space was an elegant blend of designs from throughout the world, with pictures in the style of Eastern Art lining the walls and classic, handcrafted furniture lining the room. Throughout the space Christmas decorations served as the centerpieces of the room, with holiday displays, seasonal bouquets, and Christmas trees strategic placed on shelves, atop tables, and in corners. The room’s beauty was without question.

After a woman near the exit of the dining room gave some background on the space, Rachael and I moved into a gathering area that was mostly empty except for a few poinsettias ringing a Christmas tree against the room’s back wall. Although somewhat vacant, the room’s centerpiece, a tree honoring active duty soldiers and veterans provided plenty to observe. As we approached the center of the room, a woman seated nearby provided brief explanation of the tree and the various symbolic items hanging from its boughs. Rachael and I took a few moments to follow her description of each as our eyes moved across the series of ornaments before our attention shifted to the space around us. Relics from wars and soldiers long since passed covered the open spaces around us, which gave us perspective on those that came before us and the sacrifices they made in the name of the United States of America.

We took a few minutes to point out some of the items in the room and chat about their history until time constraints caused us to move forward. Our path took us into a long, open room facing the lakefront that served as the mansion’s living room. Against the far wall a single Christmas tree decorated in metallic ribbon sat obscured by layers of antique furniture and a crystal chandelier. Although it was a challenge to observe in any sort of detail, the whole of the room offered a sight to behold that stopped me in my tracks for several minutes.

The living room
Doing my best to take in the features of the room, I slowly followed Rachael as she continued into a small library near the front of the home. There a woman walked us through the civil war motif that accompanied the rows of books on Wisconsin and its history. Between the antiques lining the open shelves, the worn volumes lining the bookcases, and the vibrant Christmas tree nestled in the between the wall and grouping of furniture at the room’s center, I had plenty to observe as we spent a short while in the room. It was the kind of space that immediately made me feel comfortable, even if it was a passing experience on a brief holiday tour. It was just pleasant and warm, which were two things anyone could use on cold day like today.

Eventually, Rachael subtly convinced me to keep moving through the house considering our other obligations for the day. As we came to the end of the tour, we entered a sun room decorated with playful candy cane decorations that covered the walls, a Christmas tree in the corner, and a variety of wrapped boxes on the floor. We chatted about the various points of interest with a woman in the room for a brief while until we exhausted the sights in the room. In turn, Rachael and I made our way past another police officer guarding the sunroom and brought our tour to a close.

As we walked back into the stinging cold of an early December morning, Rachael and I took some time to take in the sight of the mansion’s exterior once more. With our feet guiding us back toward the property gate, we chatted about the experience in the home and the beautiful decorations and relics it contained. Although it was brief, the time we spent at the governor’s mansion this morning was a full and insightful experience. The history that emanates from every part of that home was worth the experience; let alone the holiday decorations put together by local artists, businesses, and volunteers.

I will be the first to admit today’s “I have never...” event wasn’t the most exciting, and it certainly didn’t have a life altering impact. However, I know the experience got Rachael and I out of the house on a day when it would have been easy to stay bundled up inside. In some ways, that’s enough to make me happy we made the trip to the governor’s mansion this morning. As far as I’m concerned, everything else that came with the experience was simply icing on the cake.

1 comment:

  1. It'll be a great privilege if I'll be given the chance to roam around the governor's mansion! Hehe! You're lucky to have this rare experience, Caleb. Thanks for sharing these images. I'll bookmark this post and use the photos as an inspiration for my renovations. I'm sure my new house will love the designs inspired by the governor's mansion. What d'you think? :)

    Calvin Mordarski @