Built on the banks of the Susquehanna River, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence was designed by Philadelphia architect George M. Ewing and completed in 1968.
Pennsylvania’s first official Governor’s Residence was located on South Second Street in downtown Harrisburg. It was purchased under the helm of Governor James Pollack (1850-1858) in 1858 just prior to his leaving office. Governor Andrew Curtain (1861-1867), who served during the Civil War, found this residence to be too small for the many wartime crisis meetings he convened leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg.
In 1864, the state purchased a larger home at 313 North Front Street in Harrisburg, which became popularly known as Keystone Hall. For 79 years Keystone Hall was used by Pennsylvania’s Governors. With 119 windows, the home was drafty, and the room arrangements were awkward. It did not readily accommodate the business and social gatherings that are a necessary part of conducting the affairs of the commonwealth.
In 1941, Governor Arthur H. James (1939-1943) signed legislation authorizing the construction of a new residence for the state’s governors and providing for the disposition of Keystone Hall. Two properties were purchased at Front and Maclay Streets in Harrisburg; however, due to the onset of World War II, construction did not begin on the new Governor’s Residence until 25 years later in 1966.
Three Governors, from 1943 through 1955, resided at the State House, a fieldstone residence at Fort Indiantown Gap, built for the adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
During his tenure, Governor George Leader (1955-1959) chose to reside in Keystone Hall. He was followed by Governor David Lawrence (1959-1963) who, after one year, sold Keystone Hall at auction for $85,000, and moved his family to the State House.
After years of postponement, ground was broken for the new Governor’s Residence on November 22, 1966. In December 1968, Governor and Mrs. Raymond Shafer (1967-1971) became the first occupants of the newly constructed home. In the spring of 1968, Governor Shafer buried a lead box containing a photograph of the Shafer family, copies of the May 12, 1968 edition of Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia newspapers, a letter from Governor Shafer to Pennsylvanians of the future, and a copy of the 1967-68 Pennsylvania Manual.
Less than four years later, in 1972, the Governor’s Residence sustained extensive flood damage due to Hurricane Agnes. Governor Milton Shapp (1971-1979) and his family were forced to vacate the home, which had five feet of standing water on the first floor. The restoration of the Residence took nearly two years.
During Governor Thornburgh’s administration, a screened porch was built for the first family. Years later, First Lady Michele Ridge spearheaded a major garden renovation that visitors continue to enjoy today.
Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf continue to live in Tom’s childhood home in York County, but utilize the residence for official functions, meetings and other events.