First Gentleman Dan Little greets guests at the Oregon State Capitol Foundation reception at Mahonia Hall. (Joel Zak/Special to Salem Reporter)

Nestled in South Salem's Fairmont Hill is the lovely Mahonia Hall, which is the official residence for the governor.  Built in 1924, Mahonia is the scientific name of the Oregon grape.   

The building was acquired by the state in 1988 and paid for with private donations.  This was the location where the Oregon State Capitol Foundation recently held a reception for supporters.

The foundation advocates for the preservation of the Oregon State Capitol and its grounds. As part of its award-winning Capitol History Gateway project, the foundation also provides money for cultural and educational programs, events and displays celebrating Oregon’s past, present and future. The Capitol building has an impressive 200,000 visitors each year.

When pulling up to the mansion, I was greeted by Oregon State Trooper Danny Bisgaard, part of the team that protects the property. Following state Rep. Raquel Moore-Green and husband Jim, we walked past the boxwood gardens and through the large, iron gate at the Tudor-style home. The First Gentleman, Dan Little, was welcoming guests to the home he shares with Gov. Kate Brown (who was not in attendance). Joel Zak stood outside with his camera to capture pictures. Inside the house, you could hear accomplished pianist and former lobbyist, Phil Peach, playing a baby grand piano with a state of Oregon stained glass window in the background.

Having grown up around the Capitol, I was able to play catch-up with many friends from my lobbying days including Tom Barrows and Bruce Anderson. Former Sen. Mae Yih, (who served the state in both the House and Senate between 1977-2003) was there, along with long-time legislative staffers Frankie Bell and Judy Hall. Anderson later announced that he will serve as the chief of staff for the House Republicans.

As we enjoyed some delicious appetizers, I talked with former neighbors Danny Santos and Beth Graham; Chane Griggs, and Nancy DeSouza Gaskins. Foundation board member and active volunteer Ed Schoaps said he appreciated Salem Reporter’s interest in community theater.

In a short presentation, Board Chair Kim Duncan told of exciting new programming that will enrich Capitol visitors’ knowledge about state government and history as well as encourage visits to heritage partners throughout Oregon. Bob Repine, foundation board member and a former state representative, shared his plans to highlight the birthday celebration of the Beaver State, which will turn 161 years old Feb. 14, 2020. Oregon was admitted into the Union in 1859.

You can support the mission of the Capitol Foundation by making a tax-deductible donation  at www.OregonCapitolFoundation.org. If you haven’t been to the Capitol in a while, there are guided tours starting in the rotunda weekdays through Nov. 28 at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tower tours will start again next June.

Bob Repine, a former state representative, speaks at the Oregon State Capitol Foundation reception at Mahonia Hall. (Joel Zak/Special to Salem Reporter) 

Kim Duncan and Elisabeth Walton Potter at the Oregon State Capitol Foundation reception at Mahonia Hall. (Joel Zak/Special to Salem Reporter)

Phil Peach plays for guests at the Oregon State Capitol Foundation reception at Mahonia Hall. (Joel Zak/Special to Salem Reporter)

State Rep. Raquel Moore-Green and her husband Jim head to the Oregon State Capitol Foundation reception at Mahonia Hall. (Joel Zak/Special to Salem Reporter)

Chane Griggs, Judy Hall and Frankie Bell at the Oregon State Capitol Foundation reception at Mahonia Hall. (Joel Zak/Special to Salem Reporter)

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing a regular column for Salem Reporter. Tell her about your upcoming event at mlvg@prsalem.com or follow her on Facebook.