Past Times – Stewards of the Stories
Story by Heather Feeler | Oct 27, 2016
The rich history of the Governor’s Mansion shines bright during the holidays.
photos by Rebecca Gordon
Christmas is a magical time of year. Everything is shiny and bright, from the twinkling lights at night to the ornaments twirling on the tree. And no one does the holidays as big, or even quite as bright, as the historic Governor’s Mansion in downtown Jefferson City.
The Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, a group that started in 1974, is responsible for the annual holiday traditions at the mansion, but they also work tirelessly throughout the year on preservation projects and sharing the rich history of the mansion with Missourians. They have 75 volunteer docents who provide guided tours of the mansion to 70,000 people each year. For many docents, it’s a labor of love that has spanned decades.
“We are stewards of the stories in the mansion,” says Rebecca Gordon, executive director of the Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion. “We have docents that came to us during the Bond administration in the ’70s and are still giving tours.”
The mansion opens its doors the first weekend in December for the annual candlelight tours. This special holiday event for all ages is also marked with a commemorative ornament designed every year by the first lady in partnership with the Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion. The ornaments are only sold for a limited time, and each one is made in Missouri with a unique design, including designation of the year and historical significance of the ornament.
“The reason we create the ornaments is because they tell a story,” Gordon says. “They reflect pieces and parts of a home that is ever-changing with the first family. It also reflects the time in Missouri history when they were put out.”
Over the years, the ornaments have become collector’s items. While each ornament is unique, there are some designs over the years that have stood out, like the 2013 ornament featuring the First Family’s dog, Daniel Boone. “When we do candlelight tours, the dog ornament and the history of Daniel Boone in Missouri really resonates with kids,” notes Gordon.
The theme and design planning for the 2016 ornament started back in February. The ornament will be the creative work of Firehouse Design, a local graphic design company in Jefferson City.
“You’re thinking it’s just an ornament, but there is a lot of thought and detail that goes into these ornaments,” Gordon says. “The First Lady is very involved, and I find that very enchanting because of the personal touch and attention.”
Ornaments can be purchased for $15 online or at the Governor’s Mansion candlelight tours on December 2 and 3. All proceeds go toward the preservation efforts at the mansion. To learn more about the Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, including volunteer opportunities, visit www.missourimansion.org or contact executive director Rebecca Gordon at 573-230-7000.