1877 Gallatin Era of the Mansion: Third Floor Restoration

The third floor of California's Historic Governor’s Mansion will undergo restoration in the next year. The story of the opulent Victorian period of the house from 1877 to 1903 will be told in this space, while we continue to interpret the lives of the 13 California governors and their families on the first and second floors of the Mansion.

Third floor hallway ceiling designAlbert and Clemenza Gallatin had the Mansion built in 1877 as an expression of their wealth and social standing. Friends Joseph and Louisa Steffens purchased the house in 1887 and lived here for 16 years before the selling it to the state in 1903. During this time the home was one of the largest and most impressive residences in Sacramento.

Architect Nathaniel Goodell designed it with lavish parties and fashionable gatherings in mind. The Gallatins entertained often, whether small groups for billiards matches or 250 guests for a masquerade ball.

A 2007 discovery on the third floor revealed an elaborate paint scheme that the Gallatins no doubt commissioned. Beneath layers of paint and wallpaper the walls and ceilings were once decorated with hand-painted trompe l’oeil  designs, literally meaning “to fool the eye.” Over the next year, our skilled team of restoration specialists, interpreters, maintenance staff, and curators will prepare the space for public tours.

First clue of all the hidden decorative painting on the third floor was a piece of the hallway ceiling and plaster molding that had fallen inside a wall. The elaborate hand painted ceiling design in blue seen here (picturd above) contrasts with the sage green, lavender, and faux wood grain painted on the adjacent molding.  (Photo from California State Parks)

Billiard Cues on the ceiling of third floor ballroom

Crossed billiard cues on the ceiling
(with four balls for the popular Victorian-era game of carom)
under years of paint confirming this was the billiards room.
Previously it was assumed that the billiards room was across the hall.
(Photo from California State Parks)