Looking inside the Missouri Governor’s office.
If you’ve ever taken a tour of the Missouri State Capitol, you’ve likely stopped in front of room 216 — the Office of the Missouri Governor. For many years, the double doors remained closed, leaving bypassers to wonder what it’s like inside.
But behind them lies much more than just the Governor’s Office. The room represents more than 100 years of Missouri history and heritage, with the stories of our state etched into the oak-lined walls.
Even after many days, nights, and weekends spent in the office, Missouri Governor Mike Parson keeps this significance top of mind.
“Every time I walk in here, I’m just in awe,” Governor Parson says. “Very few people get to do this and see this as I’ve gotten to see it, and it really makes you appreciate the historical value and what it means.”
At 1,750 square feet (more than double the size of the Oval Office), there is an unmistakable mystique about the room. As you admire its elaborateness, your gaze is sure to be drawn to the four murals along the south wall. Painted by artist Gari Melchers between 1922 and 1932, each represents Missouri’s dedication to education and contributions to literature.
“Every time I walk in here, I’m just in awe.”
Look to the ceiling and you’ll see the Great Seal of Missouri in the center. Why on the ceiling? In the 1990s, Governor Mel Carnahan had the seal moved from the floor to the ceiling, as he thought it disrespectful to walk on it. Look even closer and you’ll notice a gold star larger than the rest. This star, surrounded by 23 smaller stars, signifies Missouri’s status as the 24th state. Governor Carnahan painted it gold himself — with the help of a ladder, we assume.
You’ll also notice the seals of all 50 states, the Philippines, and “Porto Rico” lining the perimeter of the room. Yes, you read that right. “Porto Rico” was the French spelling before it became a U.S. territory. The United States seal is also perched prominently along the wall. History has it that this was meant to be a placeholder in the event a 51st state was ever named.
These are just a few of the intricacies that make the Governor’s Office so unique, though words can hardly do them justice. It is truly a sight to be seen — a notion Parson has taken to heart.
“Even during my time as a legislator, it was a really big deal to see the Governor’s Office,” he says. “It wasn’t something you got to do very often, and I remember walking in here and seeing the beauty of the office and thinking, ‘Wow, this is so special.’”
Up until the 1960s, the Governor’s Office was used as the Capitol’s reception room. It was last used for this purpose by Governor Warner Hearnes’s administration, and the doors were rarely, if ever, seen open after this time.
Wanting to change this, Parson had plexiglass installed between the double doors after taking office in 2018. When the governor travels, the doors are left open, giving workers, visitors, and legislators alike a glimpse into Missouri history.
“We talked to people who had worked in the Capitol for more than 20 years and had never seen the Governor’s Office, and I just thought, ‘I’d love for people to get to see what I see every day.’”
For Governor Parson, the office is less about the governor than it is the people of Missouri.
“When I think about the Governor’s Office, it’s much bigger than any one person,” he says. “We’ll only be here for a short period of time, but this office has been here for over 100 years and will be here another 100 years from now. At the end of the day, it really belongs to the people of this state.”
Many years from now, most people won’t remember who the governor was, Parson notes, but they’ll remember the things that happened in history. Even for him, it’s much the same.
“Someday, we’ll all walk out of here, and I don’t think you’ll remember the stress of the job or all the hustle and bustle. I think you’ll remember that you were here and got to be part of something special.”