The number of visitors at the governor’s mansion in Des Moines usually climbs during holidays, as Terrace Hill is decorated for the season.
But this year, there’ll be other activity in the mansion as the Vilsacks move out, and the Culvers move in. Governor Tom Vilsack’s ending his second term in office while his successor, Governor-elect Chet Culver, prepares to take over.
The transfer of power officially takes place in January 12 when Culver will be sworn in as Iowa’s next governor. But Cindy Peterson, who was assistant to Christie Vilsack when the current First Lady of Iowa moved into the governor’s mansion, says there are a lot of big adjustments. “It’ll be interesting (for the Culvers) to get used to security,” she says.
Peterson remembers for Christie Vilsack, it was a big adjustment. “When they…came back from work there would be people at their dining room table, and their house was always open and people would just ‘pop in,’ and that was one of the hardest transitions, I think, for her. Friends and even family who came to visit had to stop at the gate and identify themselves, and she says it wasn’t like being in your own home.”
The 19th-century mansion on Des Moines’ Grand Avenue, known as Terrace Hill, has been home to governors of the state since 1972. The first and second floor are open for public tours. The third floor is the private living quarters for the First Family — three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. “It’ll be a fight of who gets the bigger bedroom, between the kids,” Peterson says, laughing, though the largest of the three — for the first couple — has a small attached family room as well.
The Vilsacks also lived through months of renovations done to the mansion after Governor Terry Branstad and his family moved out. While there will be personal belongings to move, Peterson says the third-floor private living quarters are mostly furnished and most of it stays, according to the former aide.
The Vilsacks brought a few family pieces of furniture in the eight years they’ve lived there, but Peterson says most of the furniture is a part of Terrace Hill. The mansion’s third floor is “very livable,” she says, and the furniture in the First Family’s private living quarters is not “Victorian mansion furniture.”
Holiday tours of the first and second floors begin next weekend (December 2) at the governor’s mansion.