Interior designer Paul L'Esperance groaned the first time he set foot in the original governor's mansion in Sacramento, now California's official venue for dressy diplomatic events. "The ceiling was falling in, pipes were exposed," he says. That was two years and $22 million ago. Today, visitors can tour the buffed-up four-story mansion that was the home of three 19th-century governors, including Leland Stanford, before it was donated to the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento in 1900. (The current governor's mansion—also a state historic park—at 1526 "H" Street in Sacramento was purchased by The State of California in 1903.) To restore the parlor of the Leland Stanford Mansion, L'Esperance's team chipped away 150 years of grimy paint to reveal traces of ornate moldings; they also restored fine crystal chandeliers and Corinthian columns. Tours of the national landmark run through bedrooms, the parlor and the ballroom, reserved for rotating exhibits. The mansion—rechristened the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park—stands two blocks west of the state capitol. Information: (916) 324-0575, www.stanfordmansion.org.
Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in November 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.