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My Turn: The Governor's House is having a birthday - and you're invited

Posted: July 17, 2012 - 12:01am

I often hear from Juneau residents about how much they enjoy the Governor’s House as an iconic feature of the Capital City skyline and symbol of our Capital.

Over the years, many Juneauites have visited the House during the annual Holiday Open House, a cherished community tradition for young and old. Over cookies and punch, memories have been made throughout the generations.

We are midway through the centennial year of the Governor’s House, and we’re also at the end of another set of renovations and repairs to keep “this old house” shipshape and able to withstand all the wind, snow and sleet that our Southeast Alaska weather can throw at it.

The House’s north lawn will be the site of a special community celebration from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on July 19, to mark this unique Alaska treasure’s 100th anniversary.

Preparing for this unique event, and poring through Carol Sturgulewski’s new book, “White House of the North: Stories from the Alaska Governor’s Mansion,” we’re reminded of the great history of the residence that was occupied first by Governor Walter Eli Clark.

Gov. Clark was a newspaperman appointed by President Taft to be the last governor of the District of Alaska, as well as the first governor of the Territory of Alaska. While in office, he signed laws that created eight-hour work days for many workers and women’s voting rights, at a time when only nine states had yet granted women that right.

I am certain that all governors’ families since that era have felt it was a privilege and a responsibility to be residents of the Governor’s House, and that they had the same reverence toward it that Sean and I do.

Long-time Juneau residents have witnessed several restorations completed; without a doubt, the house stands strong today because of them. The most recent renovations addressed serious deterioration of the stucco exterior, and some leaks that would have eventually resulted in rot. In addition to a new coat of exterior paint, there’s also a freshly painted interior and new sections of plumbing, as well as a checklist of other needed repairs.

We’ll have cookies, popcorn, lemonade, and live music, and we’ve invited all living former governors and their families to attend the celebration on the 19th. A brief program will include Clark Gruening and former Gov. Bill Sheffield talking about what their lives were like when they lived in the Governor’s House.

Sean and I invite the community of Juneau to come celebrate 100 years, and to launch the next 100 years of the Alaska Governor’s House.

• Parnell is First Lady of Alaska.

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