The Lindenberg Mansion: A Home Fit for a Governor
By Kieran Robertson
One of the hallmarks of taking a job in a new city is finding a place to live. Today, many employers will offer assistance with relocation. However in the past, this was much less common- even if you were the Governor of Ohio.
Until 1917, the state of Ohio did not maintain a residence for the Governor. Many governors, not originally native to the capital city of Columbus, spent their terms moving from place to place, staying wherever they could find a room to rent. In December of 1916, Governor-Elect James M. Cox thought he had succeeded in avoiding this issue by renting a home at 940 East Broad Street, a residence Governor Asa S. Bushnell had also occupied. However, the Governor wasn’t the only newly elected officer looking for housing in the city. W.D. Fulton, recently elected Secretary of State, had already signed his lease at 940 East Broad Street, and Cox was forced to rent a room at a hotel.
Finally, seeing the ridiculous nature of Cox’s search for a place to call home, the Ohio General Assembly appointed a committee of former governors to find an Executive Mansion.
This committee found that a home already existed near the site they were interested in. It was owned by a man named Charles Lindenberg. Lindenberg, raised in Columbus by German parents, spent his adult life working with his brother Henry, M.C. Lilley, and John Siebert to form M.C. Lilley and Company. M.C. Lilley manufactured uniforms for fraternal organizations, eventually branching out into the creation of uniforms for college students and government officers. With the giant success of M.C. Lilley, Lindenberg was well prepared to pay a top architect to design his family’s new Columbus home.
An advertising brochure for a new M.C. Lilley & Co. product for fratneral organizations.
Lindenberg hired a man named Frank Packard, today a nationally recognized architect, to build his new home in the early 1900s. Packard designed many well-known Ohio buildings during his career including Orton Hall at the Ohio State University, President Warren G. Harding’s front porch, and Blume High School of Wapakoneta (the building in which Neil Armstrong attended classes as a teenager).
Packard used many Ohio made materials in his construction of the Lindenberg home. The stonework was completed with limestone from Columbus, Dayton, and Greensburg; all iron work was painted with Sherwin-Williams Metalastic paint; and many of the toilets were chosen straight from the catalog of the Columbus Brass Company. (To learn more about the specific supplies that made up the home, you can see Packard’s original specifications at the Ohio History Connection Archives & Library, call number OVS 7664.)
The Lindenberg’s moved into this gorgeous Georgian style home in 1904 and began to decorate its halls with the decadence befitting a shareholder in one of the city’s most profitable businesses. On January 29, 1919, while the state was considering purchasing the Lindenberg home for the governor, the Ohio State Journal published an article describing the details of the interior including “the wide [front] staircase which divides in front of a Tiffany stained glass window,” “marble figures brought from abroad by the Lindenbergs,” and “a frieze of leather in a peacock shade, bordered in gold.” The home contained nine bedrooms, a steam-heated porch, and its own ballroom.
Despite the ornate trappings of their mansion, the Lindenbergs actually sold the home to the state of Ohio at a loss. After acquiring the building in 1919, the state began a complete remodel, razing the Kinsell home next door to make way for a garden, and shipping in furniture made by prisoners at the Mansfield Reformatory. By February 1920, three years after he first started looking for a Columbus home, Governor James Cox and his family were able to move into the new Governor’s Mansion.
Only ten governors and their families would end up occupying the former Lindenberg home. In 1957, the state was gifted the Malcom Jeffrey home in Bexley, which since that time, has served as the governor’s official residence.
The current residence provided for Ohio’s governors is seen here in the 1970s, during Governor John J. Gilligan’s time there.
The old Governor’s Mansion still stands in Columbus today. It was once used as the Ohio Archives Building, but has since transitioned into the home of the Columbus Foundation. Now over 100 years old, Packard’s architecture remains stunning for visitors to Columbus happening down Broad Street. This fall, Ohio will elect a new governor, but fortunately finding a new home will be far from their to-do list.