Recently, HashtagWV had the unique opportunity to speak with Vicki Shannon, the woman behind the WV governor’s mansion
In the heart of Charleston, West Virginia’s capital city, sits the stately three-story colonial red-brick Executive Mansion overlooking the Kanawha River that has been home to every West Virginia Governor and first-family since 1925; from Ephraim and Alma Morgan, right up to Cathy and Jim Justice, and their famous pooch, Babydog.
If the walls of the Governor’s mansion could talk, they would tell the story of dignitaries dancing in the ballroom…
If the walls of the Governor’s mansion could talk, they would tell the story of dignitaries dancing in the ballroom, important state meetings held in the library and fabulous meals had in the dining room. Unfortunately, those walls didn’t see a lot of action for a couple of years as the mansion and the rest of the capitol complex, the symbolic beating heart of state government, suddenly sat devoid of the governed and closed to visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recently, HashtagWV had the unique opportunity to speak with Vicki Shannon, who serves West Virginia as both Director of the Governor’s Mansion, and Executive Assistant to First Lady Cathy Justice. She tells us that the mansion will soon be opening its doors for tours and welcoming children from all over West Virginia as they climb aboard their school buses and road trip their happy little selves down to Charleston. “With COVID, we haven’t been able to do the school tours,” Vicki told us, before optimistically adding, “But we will be opening that back up sometime soon – sooner than later.”
From its reception foyer checkered with a black Belgium and white Tennessee marble-floored entrance flanked by dual staircases that lead up to the Governor’s private residence, to its historic ballrooms and dining areas, Vicki makes sure that the mansion acts as ade facto ambassador to the rest of the world. “It’s up to each individual governor what their policy is regarding tours of the mansion,” Vicki explained, adding that the Justice family enjoys welcoming visitors from all over the world, but especially those who call West Virginia home.
Believe it or not, some people have it on their bucket list to visit the governor’s mansion…
It was at this point when Vicki humored me as I spoke about my geeky, and quite possibly unhealthy obsession with YouTube videos. I shared with her that I often enjoy watching videos featuring state capitol buildings that are ranked solely by the opinion of the videos’ creator.
“Believe it or not, some people have it on their bucket list,” Vicki told me. “Their thing is to visit as many Governor’s Mansions as they can. So we have some of those folks too.”
But don’t expect to see virtual tours of the Governor’s Mansion on YouTube anytime soon. While still photography is allowed throughout much of the tour, filming video is not so readily acceptable. “Taking video is pretty much circumstantial,” Vicki explained. “It’s a case-by-case basis.”
As far as her favorite part of the Mansion, Vicki says that it is by far the State Dining Room
The entire first floor of the mansion is considered public and every attempt is made in keeping the floor “consistent with the period of the house,” Vicki tells us. “Obviously a lot of people come in and out of the Mansion, and we work very closely with the Mansion Preservation Foundation to keep that consistency.”
Vicki went on to say that Shelley Moore, former First Lady of West Virginia and mother of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, began the Mansion Preservation Foundation during her husband’s time in office. “The purpose of the Foundation is to oversee the first floor furnishings,” Vicki said. “They work to ensure that the things that are donated or bought through the Foundation stay in the Mansion. That really helps us maintain the traditional style of the house. The first floor is so lovely because the furnishings go with the period.”
As far as her favorite part of the Mansion, Vicki says that it is by far the State Dining Room. “The very fine antique dining tables, chairs and buffet pieces are extraordinary and fit the room perfectly,” Vicki explains. “ The seats of the dining chairs showcase lovely needlepoint work by twenty-two West Virginia artisans. Each chair seat has the monogram of the person who did the handiwork. There is also a spectacular hand-painted mural by artisans from the John Canning Company of CT. They specialize in historic decoration and preservation and have done work in many historic buildings across the nation, including The White House. The beautiful mural tells in sepia-toned drawings the chronological history of West Virginia. It is grand and sets a tone of understated elegance for the room.”
Although no official date has been announced as to when the Mansion will be resuming school tours and class trips, Vicki is rather optimistic that they will be ready in time for the beginning of the upcoming school year. In the meantime, those wishing to visit the historic Governor’s Mansion may have the opportunity to do so by calling 304-558-3588, and inquiring about arrangements.