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Kentucky Governor's Mansion Turns 100, Celebration Plans Underway

This story appears courtesy of KY Forward and is written by its Editor & Publisher Judy Clabes with additional information from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Kentucky’s Governor’s Mansion will be 100 years old in 2014, and thanks to restoration efforts by former First Lady Phyllis George Brown in the early 1980s, the stately landmark is in fine shape for its big celebration.

And thanks to Lexington-based Michael Breeding Media, Kentucky’s children will have a special historic documentary video component to commemorate the occasion – and some will have a chance to actually have a part in the epic film presentation. Auditions for those coveted parts are fully booked this weekend.

“We are working hard to produce a children’s video with lasting impact,” says Breeding, a Springfield native and a documentary producer of national repute, having Our Lincoln and Cassius Marcellus Clay: An Audacious Americanamong his credits. 

On behalf of current First Lady Jane Beshear and the Mansion Centennial Committee, Michael Breeding auditioned and discovered a diverse and talented group of children from area schools to participate in the children’s video. The Forcht Group of Kentucky is sponsoring this special documentary, which will premiere in January at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort and the Kentucky Theater in Lexington.

But first – the filming.

As part of the documentary, Breeding is planning a re-enactment of a gala party given by Gov. James B. McCreary in January 1914 to celebrate the opening of the new Governor’s Mansion. And that requires grand – emphasis on GRAND – period costuming and authentic period dancing.

Lexington Vintage Dance and 20 additional actors and dancers will be part of the re-enactment. The filming will include men from the blue and the gray, a nostalgic nod to Gov. McCreary’s decorated past as a Civil War soldier.

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Behind the scenes of the filming/Provided

First Lady Jane Beshear will be in a gown courtesy of University of Kentucky Opera Theater and Lexington Ballet. Mrs. Beshear’s headpiece is designed by Caroline Haddock. Gov. Steve Beshear will also have a cameo appearance in the scene, wearing a tuxedo provided by Geno’s Formal Affair of Lexington and Elizabethtown.

“I am very pleased to leave behind a lasting legacy for one of the Commonwealth’s most treasured architectural landmarks. I have wanted to film a documentary of the Governor’s Mansion history since 2006, what better time than its centennial anniversary,” says David Buchta, director and state curator, Division of Historic Properties. “It is my hope that Kentuckians and beyond will have a greater understanding of the culture and history which has shaped the mansion’s past and reflects its future.  We are fortunate to have one of Kentucky’s own Michael Breeding producing the project.”

After a series of premieres, the documentary will be distributed to schools and made available to KET. The one-hour program will include interviews with former governors and their families, former and current mansion staff, and many important Kentucky political figures. Premieres will be held at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort on Jan. 15 and at the Kentucky Theater in Lexington on Jan. 16.

The Mansion Centennial Celebration Committee includes co-chairs Mike Duncan of Inez and Lexington attorney Terry McBrayer. A cross-section of Kentuckians from around the state are joining to celebrate the Beaux-Arts mansion that has served as home to 25 governors and their families – and as the center of Kentucky politics for a century. A year-long schedule of celebratory events will involve all 120 counties through a special legacy project.

The “County Seats” legacy project is an opportunity for each Kentucky county to be a part of the celebration. The Kentucky Executive Mansion’s Foundation, Inc. (KEMFI, 501c3) has contracted with Berea College to produce 120 new durable, functional and beautiful chairs for the mansion. The chairs will be handcrafted of locally sourced, sustainable maple wood and are being designed, built and upholstered by Berea students. Each county has the opportunity to donate $1,000 for a chair that will bear its name.

Celebratory events will begin the week of Jan. 20, 2014, and continue throughout the year. Presently, plans are under way for several receptions, a symposium, the Martin Luther King March and reception, garden festival, Centennial Gala, murder mystery dinner, a special Christmas celebration and many other events that will highlight the significance of the Governor’s Mansion for the citizens of Kentucky.

The Governor’s Mansion is situated on the east lawn of the State Capitol grounds on a bluff high above the Kentucky River in Frankfort. It was designed by Kentuckians C.C. and E.A. Weber of Fort Thomas in 1912.  The exterior was modeled after the Petit Trianon, Queen Marie Antoinette’s villa on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles.

The design of the Governor’s Mansion was a product of its time — the post Civil War Gilded Age of conspicuous consumption. The building reflects the grand spirit of people who had not yet experienced a severe economic depression or a world war.  Great care was spent on the design and the interrelationship of every aspect of the Governor’s Mansion with attention to decorative details executed in high-quality craftsmanship.  Historians have speculated that the advent of World War I interrupted the original construction before the interior and gardens could be completed.

The mansion is elegantly proportioned with a front portico that includes four pairs of ionic columns. A stone balustrade and terrace make an impressive entrance to this historic building.  The interior of the mansion reflects the eclectic interest in French Neo-Classicism typical of the Beaux-Arts period. Most lighting fixtures and decorative features, such as the ornamental plaster and mantles, are original to the building.

“Jane and I have been fortunate to live at the Mansion and experience firsthand the stunning architecture and impeccable attention to detail that went in to constructing this historic landmark,” said Governor Steve Beshear in a news release.  “But we are just the temporary residents. This magnificent building is truly the people’s house and belongs to every Kentuckian.  I hope that folks from across the state will come to visit the residence during this special celebration and see the Mansion as they’ve never seen it before.”  

“Governors’ mansions across the country are becoming increasingly rare, as many have gone by the wayside due to lack of interest in preservation or depleted funding,” said First Lady Jane Beshear in a news release.  “In Kentucky, we are blessed to have a fully functional and restored executive residence thanks to the support of our leaders and people who value history, art and tradition.  The Kentucky Governor’s Mansion has a story to tell, and we invite people of all ages to join us for next year’s Centennial Celebration.”

The Governor’s Mansion is listed on the National Register of the Historic Places. To visit the Governor’s Mansion website click here and visit the Governor’s Mansion Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KentuckyGovernorsMansion or follow the Mansion on Twitter @GovMansion1914.