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Our First Family’s Home” explores the governor’s residence just outside of Columbus in Bexley, Ohio. It takes readers through the home’s path, through the developments and changes that came along with the shifting of ownership and administrations.
The Tudor-style home is unlike any other. It works both as a public facility to host events and other government officials, while still serving as a home to the current governor’s family. Built in 1925 by Columbus architect Robert Gilmore Hanford, the home was originally occupied by industrialist Malcolm D. Jeffrey.
Mary Alice Mairose, a curator at the governor’s residence, takes you through its history, which began at a different address. From 1920 through the mid-1950s, a Georgian-style house in Columbus served as the governor’s mansion and saw 10 administrations come and go. In 1955, the Bexley home was offered to the state, but it wasn’t until 1957 that former Governor
C. William O’Neill and his family moved in.
History buffs will enjoy the chronology the book offers as it briefly covers each administration’s stay in the residence. You can see how the home was used differently by each family. The DiSalle family, for instance, began a tradition of holding wedding receptions on the property and often invited political leaders, such as John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the residence.
But in the late-1980s, during the Celeste administration, life in the residence wasn’t so grand. The house needed some serious repairs. Some showers didn’t work, the former first lady found cockroaches and rats in the kitchen; and most furniture was unusable. Because of this, in 1983 Mrs. Celeste created Friends of the Residence, a nonprofit organization created to help restore the property. This foundation is still intact and has been the starting point for many developments that have enriched the home’s integrity.
Continuing this trend, Hope Taft worked with agricultural and design experts to create the Ohio Heritage Garden, which we see come alive through Ian Adams’ photography. An aerial view of the master plan for the garden is also included. An entire chapter is devoted to “a walk around Ohio,” the theme of the landscape and garden. The garden incorporates native Ohio plants and depicts the diverse regions of the state. And solar panels on the roof of the carriage house allow for a conservation of energy.
Current residents Ted and Frances Strickland continue the preservation of the property and its traditions. They display artwork from historic and contemporary Ohio artists and continue to look for ways to make the house more energy-efficient.
“Our First Family’s Home” suggests that the residence has four stories to tell: the architecture and the history of the building itself, the history of the artists whose work is displayed, the story of Ohio’s diverse landscapes highlighted by the garden, and finally the history of each family who once called it home. Each is an integral part of Ohio history and that of the governor’s residence. With the help of many expert contributors this book takes you on a journey through time, proving the residence is more than just a temporary house for a government official, but also a representation of our state’s pride.