Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life In The Mansion

By Judit Trunkos

When the City Paper asked Former Governor Mark Sanford what was the most difficult for his family to adjust to while living in the governor’s mansion he responded, “The fact that there is no kitchen upstairs. The kitchen downstairs can cook for three-hundred people, but there is not a kitchen upstairs. Also, there is a museum downstairs, so I had to tell my boys not to touch anything and that there are visitors walking around downstairs.”

The Governor’s Mansion has been serving as the home of South Carolina’s first families since 1869 in which year Governor Scott occupied it with his family. Since then 40 other families have lived there leaving their cultural and personal imprints on the decoration, the garden and often even the construction and the walls of the building. The featured pictures, books, documents and sketches provide an inside into the first families’ life while also shows us the human side of the family.

Ms. Nancy Bunch has been Tour Director there for the past 18 years and Curator for 15 years and has assisted four different first families in the building. When asked to name the most difficult thing that new families struggle with, she responded, “One of the most difficult things for the new First Family is adjusting to being surrounded by staff daily. Mrs. West was known for fixing things.  One time, for instance, she was caught under the dining room table repairing the buzzer.”

Bunch described some of the personal side of family life in the mansion, “Governor West loved to practice his golf swing on the front lawn and once broke a Mansion window with a golf ball. Or another special example is Governor Blackwood’s special Christmas night in which he invited the inmates who worked at the Mansion to gather around the Christmas tree.  Envelopes containing their executive pardons decorated the tree.

Herbert J. Hartsook,Director of the South Carolina’s Special Collection, took the time to answer City Paper’s questions about the ongoing exhibitions:

CCP: What does each family add to the Mansion?

Hartsook: “While the first families do not have to bring their furniture, some of them do. In fact, many of the first families brought furniture and artwork into to the Mansion. “

CCP:  What other changes are there in the Mansion?

Hartsook: “The mansion has changed a lot since it was built. The Mansion is now a mansion complex.  It also has a pool and a pool house. It is a wonderful place to meet, talk and entertain guests.”

CCP:  Is it true that for decades inmates were taking care of the mansion?

Hartsook: “Indeed, for generations the mansion was staffed by prison inmates. That changed with Governor Hodges.  Visiting the mansion interested South Carolinians can learn much more about the building that hosts the Governor’s family. “

Reviewing the exhibit, the viewer will find that not only the first families have normal lives just as everyone else, but they also try to preserve it as such.  Katharine Klein, a Graduate Student of Public History helped organize the exhibition and summarized the exhibit as a learning experience.

“Visitors will learn a very interesting side of the governor’s family that is not in the public eye.  The mansion is a museum but it is also a living space,” said Klein.


The Hollings Special Collection Library at USC is proud to present a special exhibition “Life in the Mansion.” This extraordinary show will share with the visitors the real life in the Governor’s Mansion together with some of the advantages and difficulties every first family has to adjust to. The exhibit can be seen until July 29.

To learn more about the exhibit, visit http://www.sc.edu/library/news/index.php?mode=view&id=537.


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