When Cindy, Carol, and I heard that the Leland Stanford Mansion and the California Governor’s Mansion were rumored to be on the State Parks closure list, we decided we wanted to see both of these important Sacramento attractions.
We were able to take the public tour of the Leland Stanford mansion at 8th & N Streets on a recent chilly but sunny morning. Our tour guide, Richard, explained to us how the Mansion’s structure was built in phases. It went from being a small plain boxy structure (circa 1856) to a large ornate one with its distinctive front porch stairway by the end of the 1870’s. The whole building was raised 12 feet during one of the addition projects, about the same time as the rest of downtown Sac was being raised to avoid recurrent flooding.
The entire tour of the Leland Stanford Mansion was very interesting. From the unusual 4-pocket pool table, to the beautiful ceiling medallions that acted as “soot catchers” in the days of gas lighting, to the mirrors in the fireplaces so that Victorian ladies could check to be sure their ankles weren’t showing, to the massive wood furniture in the dining room with seemingly straightforward carving which are actually reminiscent of railroad locomotives, to the “ice bucket” fishbowl in the ladies’ parlor, the Stanford Mansion is full of fascinating pieces and stories. The museum/gift shop/visitor center in the back yard is small, yet thorough.
One place I could really enjoy spending some time is the 2nd floor master bedroom/bath. I wonder if it is the fact that there is a comfortable looking “fainting couch” in the corner by the front window. Carol, Cindy, and I laughed with relief that we are living in the 21st century when our guide reminded us how useful that particular item of furniture was to women who wore tight corsets and had just climbed 2 flights of stairs! The adjoining master bath had its own Victorian-era wood-trimmed metal bathtub, with a curtained exterior window behind it looking out onto the interior hall. That window was a particularly unusual and interesting artifact of one of the Mansion’s several addition-remodel events.
The Leland Stanford mansion has been put to several different uses over the years, including an orphanage and teenage girls home. Currently, the Mansion is used for official State receptions, since California doesn’t have an active Governor’s mansion. There is an historical “reception” office in one wing, with a “working” (i.e. includes phone, fax, computer, etc.) office behind it.
We knew the Leland Stanford Mansion would be interesting to see, but as Cindy exclaimed at the conclusion, “That was better than I expected!” We recommend that you go see it if you can. We could only wish to be lucky enough to attend an official function there - that would be fantastic! We have not made it yet to the historic Governor’s Mansion at 16th and H Streets, but hope to get there soon! It is great that both of these great Sacramento tourist attractions are located in downtown Sacramento, steps from several great restaurants and hotels. Click here for more information about this and several other great Sacramento museums.