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Governors’ State Residences

Posted at 6:01 pm July 3, 2017, in NJ Governors, U.S. Governors

BlogLogoWith New Jersey Governor Chris Christie receiving considerable publicity this weekend for taking his family to the state-owned governor’s house in Island Beach State Park, we thought we’d take a moment to visit governors’ mansions more generally.

All but five states own an officially-designated governor’s residence, usually referred to as a “mansion.” Massachusetts and Rhode Island have never hosted such a facility while three other states—Arizona, Idaho, and Vermont*—had residences at one time, but sold or repurposed them. Arizona’s former Governor’s Mansion, for example, is now a museum. California’s mansion, too, was used as a museum until 2015, when it was announced that current governor Jerry Brown would move in after renovations. Brown is the first California governor to live in the residence since Ronald Reagan in 1967.

The remaining 45 states each have a residence in which its governor can choose to reside while in office. The vast majority of such residences are located in the state capital. Only four—those in New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin—are located outside the capital.

New Jersey is one of only a handful of states to have more than one residence available to their governor. In New Jersey, in addition to the official state residence at Drumthwacket in Princeton, the governor has access to the Governor’s Ocean House, a large beach house in Island Beach State Park in Seaside Heights. The state acquired the beach house in the 1950s and it underwent a relatively major renovation in 2006, paid for personally by Governor Jon Corzine, who had reportedly come to love the house. The states of Michigan and North Carolina also each have two official governor’s residences. In Michigan, one is in the state capital of Lansing and the other is on Mackinac Island in Mackinac Island State Park. The Mackinac Island residence is maintained by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, in part via the use of state money. North Carolina maintains the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh and the governor’s “Western Residence” in the state’s western mountains, near Asheville.

Some governors choose to not live in official governor’s residences. In New Jersey, for example, while Drumthwacket became the official Governor’s Residence in 1981 – replacing a much smaller building called Morven (also in Princeton) where previous governors had resided – new Governor Tom Kean chose to remain in his private home in Livingston, 65 miles from Trenton. The residence therefore remained empty until 1990, when newly-elected Governor James Florio moved in. Since Florio, only Governor Jim McGreevey has chosen to live full-time at Drumthwacket; Governors Christine Todd Whitman, Jon Corzine and, currently, Chris Christie have used the house for meetings and entertaining but have continued to live at their private residences. This is not uncommon. Many governors in other states have also chosen to remain in their homes and leave the official residence for official state dinners and other events.

The beach house and adjoining large cottage at Island Beach State Park have been used by all New Jersey governors since the 1950s for varying combinations of family vacations and staff retreats or other gatherings.

*The governor of Vermont does have an apartment in the governor’s office building, but it is generally used only for emergencies and not as a permanent residence.