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By the time Thomas Kearns was elected to the Utah Senate in 1901, he had risen from a penniless farm boy to become one of the wealthiest men in Utah. Thanks to the rich silver reserves of Park City, and a die-hard work ethic, Kearns came to embody the kind of success people dreamed of in America’s promising west. But while he began his term in Washington, Kearns’ wife Jennie oversaw the completion of their new home in Salt Lake City: a three story chateauesque mansion.
A masterpiece by architect Carl M. Neuhausen, this home of homes, was a study in Italian renaissance and gothic traditions. Dressed in ornately carved Sanpete Oolite outside, the interior boasted a mixture of bronze and iron, oak and mahogany, filigree and frescoes and hand chipped mosaic tile. For more than 15 years, the home was a focal point for Utah’s elite society, and it hosted visiting dignitaries including President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.
In 1937, Kearns’ wife Jennie, by then a widow, bequeathed the structure to the state of Utah to be used as the official governor’s residence. With the exception of two, the Mansion has served as the official home for all of Utah’s governors ever since. And while living in the mansion is to dwell in Utah’s home of homes, it also carries a certain responsibility to care for a place that has come to symbolize not just the highest office in the state, but the best in Utah’s resources, craftsmanship, and artistry. Today, the governor’s mansion continues to fill that role as a gem in Utah’s architectural heritage. Join us as we explore the history of this remarkable structure.