By Heather Brown

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — On Thursday afternoon, Gwen Walz was serving her great grandmother’s gingersnap cookies in the solarium at the governor’s residence. It was just a few hours before she and her husband would host thirty legislators and their partners in that room for evening reception.

“I think the residence feels more homey,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m a mansion person.”

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The governor’s residence along Summit Ave. is 16,000 square feet with a full-time staff of five. Two months ago, the Walz family packed up their Mankato home to move there. They are the 11th First Family to live in the governor’s residence since it was donated to the state in the 1960s.

Sitting in the front foyer is Mrs. Walz’s grandparents’ loveseat, where she and the Governor had their wedding photos taken. They moved it from their son’s room in Mankato to St. Paul.

“I’m sentimental about things like that,” she said.

Only a few pieces of furniture traveled with the Walz family. Most of it is still packed or in storage. The lower level of the home is filled with pieces of art on loan from the Minnesota History Center and furniture that belongs to the residence.

The upstairs, which is off-limits to guests and tours, has more of the furniture the Walzes own.

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(credit: CBS)

Mrs. Walz practices the Steinway in the living room. The First Family, including sixth grader Gus and 12th grader Hope, spend a lot of time in the library. She said the room was much more formal when they moved in, with leather couches surrounding the fireplace, so she moved the furniture around and pulled in a large table to hold drinks.

“Because I think you need a place for your hot chocolate, which is Gus’ favorite thing,” she said.

She did paint the library blue from a more neutral cream. But, before that, she talked with the state agency that manages the residence and the non-profit organization, the 1006 Society, that preserves it. The home is on the Register of National Historic Places.

The state does pay for repairs, renovations or painting at the residence. The 1006 Society raises private money to preserve and refurbish things like china, curtains or furniture.

“You don’t want to do anything too wild, but I like to have a little color,” she said. “You don’t need permission, but I want their opinion, right? People have been caring for this house and I want those people to help us care for this house.”

Eventually, she’d like to get all nine fireplaces working, change some wallpaper and bring back original chandeliers. But first, she has 25 or 30 boxes to unpack.

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“We still have a ways to go,” she laughed.

Heather Brown