A ‘new’ old home for Jerry Brown -- he’s moving into the governor’s mansion

Gov. Jerry Brown and Anne Gust Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, walk outside the governor’s mansion in June 2014. They plan to move into the historic house with their two dogs in the coming months, making Brown the first governor to live there in decades.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

After decades as a staid museum, California’s Victorian-style governor’s mansion will become a home again.

Gov. Jerry Brown, whose father occupied the home as governor in the 1960s, plans to leave his modern loft in downtown Sacramento and move into the newly refurbished, three-story house with his wife and two dogs in the coming months.

The move, announced Friday, marks a turning point in the life of the mansion, built in 1877 and home to 13 governors, and Brown’s relationship with the trappings of California’s highest office.

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When he became governor the first time, in the 1970s, Brown lived in a small apartment near the Capitol, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. When he wasn’t walking to work, he rode in a blue Plymouth rather than the standard limousine.

Soon he’ll be waking up in a historic mansion with Italian marble fireplaces, original wood floors and hand-loomed Persian rugs selected by the wife of Gov. Earl Warren.

“I think it’s kind of cool,” said John Burton, who leads the California Democratic Party and has known Brown since the two were young. “Maybe I’ll get invited to a sleepover.”


The last governor to live in the mansion was Ronald Reagan, but only for a few months in 1967. With its peeling wallpaper, cranky heater and whiff of mold, Nancy Reagan deemed it a “fire trap,” and the couple abruptly decamped to an East Sacramento home.

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In January, however, major renovations began at the mansion to update electrical and plumbing systems, as well as to remove the lead-based paint and install a fire sprinkler system and other security features.

The $4.1 million cost of the changes, slated to be finished by the end of the year, was approved by the Legislature and governor.

Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrup, said the upgrades were done to “make the mansion functional, safe and livable for all future governors and their families.”

California Governor’s Mansion

The Governor’s Mansion is at the corner of 16th and H streets in Sacramento.

(Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

The restoration included the preservation of many historical elements of the home.

Brown, who also has a house in Oakland, “has long appreciated the history of the residence, used it on a number of occasions to host gatherings since taking office and is pleased to see it restored,” Westrup said.


The state purchased the mansion from a wealthy Sacramento hardware merchant, Albert Gallatin, in 1903 for $32,500. It was one of the few California homes at that time to have indoor plumbing.

It has undergone several changes. A kidney-shaped swimming pool was put in by friends of Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, Jerry Brown’s father, in the 1960s after a newspaper photo showed him sauntering across the street in his bathrobe to use a pool at a neighboring motel.

The younger Brown never lived in the mansion while growing up, but he did study for the bar exam there, Westrup said.

It’s possible that a portion of the home will be open to the public, said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the state Department of General Services.

It’s been decades since a California governor has lived in an official state residence.

In 1967, Nancy Reagan spearheaded plans to build a new governor’s mansion in Carmichael, northeast of downtown Sacramento.

The 20,000-square-foot house was constructed on a bluff overlooking the American River, but work wasn’t finished until after Ronald Reagan left office. His successor, Jerry Brown, then in his early 30s, called it a pretentious “Taj Mahal” and refused to move in.

The state auctioned off the Carmichael home in 1982. Proceeds from the sale, plus interest generated over the years, covered the cost of renovating the historic mansion.


Govs. George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis lived in a modest, four-bedroom suburban ranch house on Lake Wilhaggin Drive in Sacramento, supplied by a nonprofit foundation. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lived in the penthouse of the Hyatt Regency hotel, across the street from the Capitol.

Since Brown started his second go-around as California governor in 2011, he has hosted official state events at the mansion.

The night he was elected to a historic fourth term as governor, he ate dinner there with members of his administration as he waited for the results. After they were announced, he descended its front steps to speak with reporters and thank voters for their support.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.

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