State Ownership - 1937 to Present
In February, 1937, Jennie Kearns donated the Kearns Mansion to the state on the condition that it serve as the Governor's Residence. The Utah Legislature appropriated $28,000 toward furnace renovation and the purchase of new furnishings.
In 1938, Utah artist and decorator Florence Ware was hired to oversee the refurbishing of the interior. Florence purchased original artwork by prominent Utah artists as well as new furniture, kitchen appliances, oriental rugs and ivory-colored drapes. Florence's father, architect Walter E. Ware, supervised structural modifications, electrical upgrades and the overhaul of the mansion's heating and plumbing systems.
From the late 30's until the late 50's, several Utah governors and their families occupied the mansion--Henry and Minnie Blood, Herbert and Florence Maw, J. Bracken and Margaret Lee. During Lee's second term, the Utah Legislature turned management of the Mansion over to the Utah State Historical Society, which moved in on January 7, 1957. Unfortunately, the Historical Society had limited funds for maintenance, and the building fell into disrepair. The basement bowling alley was used to house the society's many books. (There is no longer a bowling alley in the mansion.)
In 1977, Governor Scott Matheson proposed restoring the Kearns Mansion to its previous status as the Utah Governor's Mansion. In January of that year, the Utah Legislature authorized the sale of the Fairfax Road Governor's Mansion in the Federal Heights area of Salt Lake City, and the reconversion of the Kearns Mansion. The Historical Society moved to the Crane building (and later to the Rio Grande railway station).
An Executive Mansion Fine Arts Policy Commission was created to recommend official mansion plans to the legislature. William Nelson of Environmental Associates drew up a Kearns Mansion master plan in collaboration with the Utah chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. Different designers decorated different rooms. Furnishings were bought through private and corporate funding at, or below, cost. Except for some carpeting and kitchen equipment, no state money went toward improvements in the late 70's.
Governor Scott and Mrs. Norma Matheson moved into the mansion in 1980, Governor Norman and Mrs. Colleen Bangerter in 1984, Governor Michael O. and Mrs. Jacalyn S. Leavitt in 1992, Governor Olene S. and Mr. J. Myron Walker in 2003, and Governor Jon M. and Mrs. Mary Kaye Huntsman in 2005.