A Garden Party for the Governor's Mansion

While Bill Owens was co-hosting a radio show with Craig Silverman on the afternoon of July 24, Frances Owens, the former First Lady (pictured), was doing her own buddy act with current First Lady Jeannie Ritter, announcing the launch of the Governor's Residence Preservation Fund, part of the centennial celebration of the Boettcher Mansion, which became the official residence of the First Family in 1959. To help fill the fund, Jeannie Ritter hosted a garden party at the Governor's Mansion Thursday that drew hundreds of the state's movers-and-shakers, many looking unusually floral.

"We really want to throw open the doors to 'Colorado's home,'" Jeannie Ritter said. "This is the hundredth anniversary of the Residence, and we want to protect it for the next hundred years so future generations of Coloradans can also enjoy it."

Unlike the Ritters, who've made themselves very at home at the mansion, the Owens family didn't live in the mansion. But Frances did her bit, and more, to renovate the facility, supervising an update of the grounds and the construction of an events center where a garage once stood, next to the carriage house and greenhouse at the back of the property. And she not only supervised. She helped decorate the facility -- as she proved when she led an impromptu tour of the bathrooms of the events center, both the men's and women's, which boast antique mirrors that Frances found stashed in the attic of the mansion.

Welcoming the flowery crowd to the Mansion, Governor Bill Ritter told the story of how the building became state property. In the late '50s, the dilapidated mansion was slated to go up for public auction -- but then-Governor Steve McNichols (whose descendents were in the audience) offered to take the house off the Boettcher Foundation's hands -- if the foundation would pay the state $15,000.

The foundation took the deal, Ritter said. Now, that's leadership. -- Patricia Calhoun

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