Talk of the Town - Treasure Trove March 30 2005

Inside the Governor's Mansion with first lady Mary Perdue

Situated grandly above bustling West Paces Ferry Road, the Governor's Mansion often serves as a silent reminder that, despite the pace of our city lives, we really do live in the Deep South. As grand a plantation-style home as could have been imagined in Gone With the Wind, the expansive residence and its tranquil landscape exude grace and the fond idea of a simpler time.

Despite these antebellum overtures, the mansion was actually completed in 1967. An exacting, 70-member fine arts team procured objects to appoint the home, establishing a museum-quality collection of furniture, china, rugs and other decorative arts. Grandiose yet oddly cozy, the home has served a total of seven governors, most recently Gov. Sonny and first lady Mary Perdue.

Creative Loafing: Do you find yourself drawn to any one item in the home?

First Lady Perdue: One of our favorites in particular is our first edition, signed copy of Gone with the Wind.

I had no idea that there was such a painstaking process involved in furnishing the home in period style.

Everything is original to the Federal period, and from what I understand, it is in the top five collections from that period that exists. This is a treasure that we have right here in Georgia and many people don't know about it.

Who are some of the most notable people you've entertained at the mansion?

Well, we've had Joe Cocker as an overnight guest. We also had the first lady of Argentina, which was very interesting because she does not speak any English. She brought a translator and a valet.

Has the transition moving from your own home in Bonaire to the mansion been difficult, particularly with the kind of entertaining you now do?

It's been pretty easy because the staff here is so wonderful. We have five full-time paid staff who have been here longer than I have. They know how to make things run smoothly. I cannot imagine moving into a place like this and not having a staff that was already accustomed to it.

What are some of the other projects that you handle as first lady?

My cause is the Our Children Campaign, which is a push to get more involved with our children in foster care, the kids in state custody because of abuse and neglect. I've been reaching out to our business community and our faith-based community as well. We just added the civic group recognition Champions for Children.

How did you get interested in this issue?

Sonny and I actually did fostering for little newborns awaiting adoption. Before that point, I really had never known a foster family or foster children. When I had the opportunity in this position, I felt like it was important to do something to make a long-term and lasting difference here.

For more information on the Our Children Campaign, visit www.gov.state.ga.us. The Governor's Mansion hosts public tours Tues.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.??

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