Maryland's governors have a great house but no one lives there Lights On, Nobody's Home

January 21, 1995|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff Writer

The governor's brick Georgian revival mansion in Annapolis offers 38 rooms, 12 bathrooms, one working fireplace, a staff of 11, convenience to houses of worship, fine restaurants, the historic waterfront and an impressive array of T-shirt shops. So how come lately nobody wants to live there?

Harry and Patricia Hughes, who moved out in 1987, were the last full-time occupants and the only married couple to live there for two full terms since the Tawes administration ended in 1967. What a strange history the house has had -- domestic scandal, political scandal, several interior decorating changes and the appearance of a lawn fountain done in a style that might best be described as Chesapeake Rococo.

If only the 125-year-old house could speak. It might look at the new governor and his wife striding through the black wrought iron gate toward the door and sigh, "What now?"

Another commuting governor, that's what. This morning Parris N. Glendening and his wife, Frances, plan to drive 45 minutes from their home in University Park to Annapolis, where they will spend three hours welcoming visitors to their official residence -- in which they do not plan to live.

It's not that the Glendenings don't like Annapolis, and it's nothing against the house. It's just that their 15-year-old son, Raymond, has put up with living in the turmoil of a gubernatorial campaign for two years. Mr. and Mrs. Glendening figure they owe him the opportunity to finish school at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, where he is a sophomore.

"While he's in school, he wants to come home to the house and the neighborhood where he grew up, where his friends are," says Mrs. Glendening. But even after he graduates, she says, they're making no firm plans to move to the mansion on the hill next to the State House.

"Maybe we'll spend more time there during the week," Mrs. Glendening says.

The state constitution says the governor must live in "the seat of government," but the 1837 provision -- adopted when the trip to Annapolis from Baltimore or Prince George's County was arduous -- has been variously interpreted. In a 1958 case, state courts ruled its purpose was to promote efficient operation of government, allowing modern-day governors to live where they want.

The Glendenings are keeping their options open. But then, so did former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who had a rowhouse in West Baltimore, a trailer in Ocean City, a town house in Pasadena next to one owned by his companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, and a condominium in Ocean City the two own jointly.

Secrets and turmoil

His living arrangements, like his relationship with Ms. Snoops, remained vaguely defined during the eight years of his administration.

Nathaniel Hawthorne would have liked this house. So antique, so stately, full of secrets, haunted by old turmoil.

There have been those who wanted nothing to do with the place and those who wouldn't leave.

First lady Barbara Mandel made its chambers a scorned woman's bunker. When Gov. Marvin Mandel announced in July 1973 that he was leaving her to pursue his relationship with Jeanne Dorsey, she refused to quit the mansion. For six months, she hunkered down, periodically making statements to reporters.

Mr. Mandel moved into an Annapolis hotel until the divorce settlement was approved. Then, he moved back into the mansion with his new wife. Novelist and screenwriter Nora Ephron wrote a piece about it called "Divorce, Maryland Style."

And who can ever forget the volley of lawsuits between Mr. Mandel and the state that followed his departure from the mansion? The state contended Mr. Mandel and his wife left the house with thousands of dollars' worth of household goods and furniture. Mr. Mandel counter-sued, saying the state kept a truckload of his stuff.

Ultimately, he paid the state $10,000 in a negotiated settlement.

After Mr. Mandel was kicked out of office in August 1977 in the wake of his federal bribery conviction, which was later overturned, acting Gov. Blair Lee 3rd moved into the mansion without his wife, Mathilde, known also as Mimi. She remained on their estate in Silver Spring. Mrs. Lee, an independent, outdoorsy sort, wanted nothing to do with the mansion, with public affairs, decorating or acting as official hostess. During her husband's 17-month tenure, she was often seen teaching canoeing and swimming in Montgomery County.

'A living mansion'

Mrs. Snoops loved playing host and decorator, but didn't want to live in the mansion with the governor. It was particularly odd considering that Mrs. Snoops defended her elaborate redecoration of the seven public rooms by saying she wanted to make it "a living mansion that reflects that a governor does live here." He didn't.

Mrs. Snoops objected to the cold, museum-like ambience of the historic period rooms created by Mrs. Hughes in collaboration with the Maryland Historical Society. She wanted to make it more homey. Shealso said something about ScotchGuard.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.