clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The little-known last push for a Mass. Governor's Mansion

New, 3 comments

In early November 2014, we ran down the commonwealth's various attempts to establish an official Governor's Mansion. Massachusetts is one of only five states without such a residence for its chief executive. The last big push for one (we thought) came in the late 1960s, when leaders in Dedham voted to offer the old 21-acre Endicott Estate off East Street as the Governor's Mansion.

It looked for a long while, too, that Gov. John Volpe would move into the 25-room spread built seven decades before by shoe kingpin Henry Bradford Endicott (and pictured above as it looks today). Then the renovation costs became clear—upward of $1,000,000, which was a lot of money back then—and, besides, President Nixon soon plucked Volpe for his Cabinet. The Endicott Estate idea died.

The push for a Massachusetts Governor's Mansion is thought to have ended there. Donald Dwight, lieutenant governor in the early 1970s under Volpe's successor, Frank Sargent, wrote in to set us straight. Shortly after Volpe's departure in early 1970, the commonwealth was offered a large house in Back Bay, the exact address of which seems lost to the mists of memory and time.

Dwight, who was state commissioner of administration and finance before becoming lieutenant governor in 1971, wrote that he thinks that the house was on Beacon Street or Commonwealth Avenue, at either the corners of Berkeley or Clarendon. (Update: Turns out it was the Ames-Webster Mansion at 306 Dartmouth Street.)

Wherever the location and however swanky it likely was, the house was a non-starter for much the same reason the other would-be Governor's Mansions had not worked out: cost. No governor wanted to be seen using state funds to buy himself a mansion. Sargent was particularly vulnerable to criticism as he had recently proposed a tax increase (plus, the nation was just coming out of a recession).

Dwight pointed out another possible reason for a mansion-less Massachusetts: The vast majority of the commonwealth's chief executives have hailed from the Boston area or right nearby, including the last several: Sargent (Dover); Michael Dukakis (Brookline); Edward King (Burlington); William Weld (Cambridge); Paul Cellucci (Hudson); Mitt Romney (Belmont); and Deval Patrick (Milton).

Only Jane Swift in the early '00s came from western or central Mass. She lived in Williamstown, which is much closer to the New York capital of Albany than to Boston.

As for the current governor, Charlie Baker, he seems quite content in Swampscott.