INSIDE LOOK: WDRB tours Governor's Mansion

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- There's one home in Kentucky that has seen famous actors, business leaders from around the world, and the biggest names in the state's history walk through its doors.

First Lady Jane Beshear took WDRB on a guided tour through the Governor's Mansion.

On the east lawn of the state capitol, you'll find what's known as the People's House.

"This is a treasure," First Lady Jane Beshear said. "This is a jewel of the state. There is not another governor's mansion like this anywhere in the United States."

Beshear vividly remembers her first visit to the mansion -- and it was with a man other than her current husband.

"In college, before I met Steve, I was dating a young man on the UK basketball team and Ned Breathitt was governor at the time and he had invited the team over for brunch," Jane Beshear recalled. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be back here married to the governor."

Steve and Jane Beshear are the state's 25th First Family to occupy the mansion.

"It's an interesting way to live," Jane said. "The main floor is the museum floor, so you never know who's down here."

The mansion is open to the public two days a week and thousands of people tour it every year.

"One of my goals is to get as many people to tour as possible because it does belong to them -- we are only temporary residents," Beshear told us.

Built in 1914, it was modeled after Marie Antoinette's summer home in France. Plenty of history has been made in its rooms, including a deal that made big news for the state. In 1985, a dinner visit to the mansion so impressed a group of Japanese executives, it helped Kentucky land the first U.S. Toyota plant.

First impressions are made in the governor's reception room. That's where business leaders and CEOs talk before dinner. The mansion is filled with French antiques to reflect the home's French architecture. A desk in the First Lady's parlor is Jane Beshear's favorite piece. Most of the furnishings in the parlor were chosen by another first lady -- Phyllis George Brown -- who saw the home through a major renovation during Governor John Y. Brown's term.

"French government had a big influence in Kentucky history," Beshear said. "So she [Brown] really felt the inside needed to reflect what the outside portrayed so they spent a lot of time and effort and their own money to make the trips and purchase the furnishings that are here and I think it makes it so beautiful."

The First Lady's favorite room -- the sunroom -- is a reflection of her personality and love of the outdoors.

The interior consultant to the White House helped with the mansion remodel, and it's easy to see when you walk into the ballroom. The chandeliers are replicas of some that hang in the President's home. The room definitely sees its share of stately and "family" affairs.

"My husband was sworn in in the ballroom the night after the public swearing in, so it's a special room," Beshear told us. "It's also a great location where my grandchildren like to roll the soccer ball around or dance themselves."

In an effort to replace chairs that had fallen into disrepair, the First Lady started the County Seat Project. Each county raised $1,000 to have a seat in the governor's mansion -- each one made by students at Berea College. The money will be put into an endowment for the mansion, an effort the Beshears spearheaded.

A centennial gala is planned in June to raise more funds for that goal. And the first lady points out even though there's no "mortgage" for the first family, she and the governor do their part by paying a stipend to cover food and expenses.

Watch WDRB News Wednesday at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. for a never-before-seen look at the Beshears' private residence.


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