Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A marker for the mansion, at last

North Carolina has 1,544 highway historical markers (sometimes known as history on a stick) indicating spots along roadsides where some event, group, building or person of note was held, organized, built or born. But for some reason, the governor's mansion -- formally known as the Executive Mansion -- finished in 1891 on Blount Street a couple blocks east of the Capitol never had one of those silver and black historical markers. Bob Eaves, husband of Gov. Bev Perdue, whose office never misses an opportunity to point out that he's the state's First Gentleman (and some folks even note that he's the First First Gentleman in state history), raised the question last year: Why not?

It's a good question. The governor's mansion was built by prison labor using native materials including oak and long leaf pine from all of the state, bricks made from Wake County Clay, marble from Anson. The Perdue Administration's Department of Cultural Resources got interested in Eave's question, and Wednesday morning the governor and her husband helped unveil the new marker on the mansion's west side bordering Blount Street. Here's what it says:
Official residence, N.C.
governors, it was com-
pleted in 1891 on Burke
Square using prison
labor. Architects, A.G.
Bauer and Samuel Sloan.

It was a lovely morning and the mansion's grounds were spectacular. Docents gave guided tours of the interior as well as the mansion's gardens, and I tagged along momentarily to see what has happened to the grounds where my father once played as a little boy. His parents lived in Greensboro but he was born in 1906 in a home that belonged to his maternal grandparents at the corner of Bloodworth and Jones streets just a block from the mansion. On visits to Raleigh he and other children from the neighborhood now known as Oakwood played on the mansion grounds in the days when there wasn't much in the way of shrubbery or trees. A brick and iron fence long ago brought that practice to a halt, and now towering trees keep the mansion gardens shady and cool on warm spring days. If ever you get the chance to visit, it's well worth the effort.

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