By John Drake Robinson
It’s an inspirational setting, in the parlor of the people’s house, filled with the history of 145 years of governors and first ladies and their children.
Who maintains these old treasures?
The nonprofit Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion partners with the State of Missouri to meet the mansion’s needs. Yet upkeep is costly. Good fortune smiles on the mansion sometimes, when good citizens come together to help, as I found out firsthand the other day.
Missouri First Lady Georganne Nixon had invited the local Tuesday Book Club to the mansion, and I was guest speaker. The event’s theme celebrated “Missouri Treasures.” Indeed, we stood surrounded by the mansion’s priceless art: the grand staircase made of walnut; the recently-restored Chickering grand piano—sister to Blind Boone’s piano in Columbia. From the walls, portraits of past first ladies smiled upon the guests.
Although I knew the roads and the stories backwards and forwards, I felt butterflies because this wasn't my customary road trip speech. Among the First Lady’s guests were civic, business, and religious leaders and the former chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.
As I told my travel tales, it wasn't the collective book smarts of these attendees that made me more self-conscious of my role. It was because the members of the Tuesday Club go way beyond reading and discussing books.
On this day, next to the ancient fireplace where generations of Missourians warmed their feet, the Tuesday Club’s gift to the old mansion drew every admiring eye.
Over many decades, the needlepoint art that stretched across the old wooden frame of the parlor’s fireplace screen had finally succumbed to age. Enter the Tuesday Book Club, who enlisted artist Kate Freter to craft a new needlepoint for the fireplace screen. And local antique furniture restorer Cornie Westerman made some repairs to the priceless wooden frame.
The screen joins the other works of art in a museum you should add to your bucket list. After all, it’s your house, too.
Find out more about arranging your free guided tour by calling 573-751-2854.
John Drake Robinson shares his journey in two books. Read more of his travel stories at johndrakerobinson.com/blog.