Virginia State Executive Mansion

More From Richmond More From Virginia

A spirit of a young lady, who was killed in a deadly accident, has made herself at home.

Can’t help herself around handsome men as she has to flirt!

She finds ways to playfully make her presence known, while getting her chuckles!


The Executive Mansion, that was built in the Federalist style, is a painted brick residence with two stories plus an attic and a basement. Living quarters are on the second floor, while the first floor is open to public tours and special events.

As with most homes that have been around awhile, various governors have made improvements, but the home still has some of its Federalist decor. “The center-hall Governor’s Mansion is in the Federal style. A hipped roof and a balustrade that connects the four chimneys distinguish the two-story painted brick residence. The building has a slightly projecting center bay where a four columned portico in the “Tower of the Winds” Corinthian order creates a monumental entrance to the building. The façade is ornamented with decorative panels of garlands and swags.”

The front two rooms and stair hallway look much like they did when the mansion was built in 1811-1813. They have the decor and furniture on display, keeping the spirit of the Federalist period. As this mansion has housed all the elected governors of Virginia since 1813, it was inevitable the remodels/ renovations and some restorations had to be done to the mansion, to meet the needs of the governor’s social obligations.

“A major renovation in 1906 by the architect Duncan Lee opened up the rear rooms of the building and added a large ballroom decorated in a suitably classical mode.”

Tours of the Executive Mansion start with the first floor where docents take groups of visitor through, pointing out paintings and inform about the decor. b In the back property, visitors can see the sunken garden. During the hot summer months, iced tea and cookies are served to visitors in tours. One visitor reported on Trip Advisor that the governor’s wife came down and greeted them there, and introduced herself.

Also in the back of the house that overlooks the sunken garden are the original kitchen quarter and stables where “the slaves and servants of Virginia governors resided and worked. Family and staff of the governor use the dependencies and garden.”



When the capitol of the Virginia colony was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1780, a house that was located on an adjacent property to the 12 acres that would be the future property of the Executive Mansion, was rented by Governor Thomas Jefferson to be the official Governor residence. It was bought and used for several governors, though unkind thoughts were expressed about the house, as being a creaky fixer-upper opportunity. Finally a governor took the bull by the horns.

“By 1808 Gov. John Tyler Sr. was calling the grounds ‘untamed and unbroken,’ complaining that ‘conditions were intolerable for a private family.’ He lobbied so effectively for a new residence that when Monroe returned for a second term in 1811, within weeks he’d signed legislation to replace the creaky old house.”

After the General Assembly voted to provide 12,000 dollars, architect Alexander Paris and contractor Christopher Tompkins got to work. The result was the proposed plans was a two storied, shingled roof house with a full basement, wooden steps, but no front or side porch. On the positive side, there was a wide entry hall that opened onto four large rooms that were perfect for entertaining events required for governors’ duties in hospitality. It’s simple design, though has served it well for its 200 years of existence.

After it was finished, it was considered by many to be the homeliness dwelling in Richmond. However, the Virginia Executive Mansion was destined to become better and better. Finding that the mansion lacked amenities, governors began to add them, starting with Gov. William Giles who “installed the first running water in the late 1820s, piped in from a front yard spring. He also replaced candles with oil-burning lights.”

The Virginia Executive Mansion gradually began to take on the elegance of the present structure, staring with Gov. John Floyd (1830-1834). “Gov. John Floyd added the front porch to good reviews. The Richmond Whig reported: ‘By the addition of the porticoes and Colonnade, the house was transformed from ‘being externally, one of the homeliest dwellings in Richmond … [to one] now entitled to the appellation of elegance, taste and sustainability.’”

William Smith, arrived in 1846, elected as Governor of the state of Virginia. He had a love to party and had great taste. He rented a place for four months, while major upgrades were made. “More elaborate columns were placed on the portico and sliding pocket doors were installed connecting the rear parlors. The kitchen passageway was covered and the dining room moved to the basement. Smith added coal heat and introduced bathrooms.”

By the turn of the century, The Virginia Executive Mansion was becoming a fixer-upper opportunity once again; being over 100 years old. The needed improvements and modernization was put on the front burner when a “portly chairman of a finance committee plopped on rickety chair and it crashed into splinters.” The interior was changed from “Neo-classical to the Colonial Revival style.”

During Gov. Claude Swanson’s term (1906-1910), “a young architect, Duncan Lee, won first place in a statewide architectural competition. Lee’s clever solution was to add an oval formal dining room at the back of the mansion where Capitol Hill drops precipitously to Governor Street.” Disaster happened in 1922, when out-going Gov. Trinkle’s 5 year old son set the Christmas tree on fire with a sparkler and the Executive Mansion was heavily damaged.

The incoming Governor, Harry F. Byrd, restored the mansion, with two major changes. First, a buffet for informal entertaining was added in the space where the large dining-room mantle once existed. Byrd also had rounded arches put in the openings between the front hall to the stair halls.

The governor also renovated the old kitchen house to be a residence for his mother, a New York decorator who oversaw this restoration.

The Virginia Executive Mansion saw other historical restorations and remodeling on the second floor, making improvements along the way, the biggest overhaul coming during Gov. Jim Gilmore’s term:1998-2002. Governor Gilmore’s wife, Roxanne Gilmore, oversaw the $7 million, most extensive overhaul. A classics professor at Randolph-Macon College, Roxanne Gilmore was a restoration enthusiast, and had a blast; being totally “immersed in the basement-to-attic restoration in both academic and hands-on ways.”

Yes indeed, the Executive Mansion has survived 200 years, lovingly looked after, and has inspired changes to its interior and exterior to please the residents and in the end people who love historical structures; restoring elements of its Ferderalist heart.



People who die suddenly may not want to move on just yet; to the spirit world. Sometimes these spirits will move into a nearby building that they find pleasing in some way. They try to interact in this world in their spirit form the best they can; enjoying what they did while alive; and find ways to get the living to notice them.

During the late 1800s, when horses were used to pull carriages, a deadly accident happened right in front of the Virginia Executive Mansion.

A beautiful young woman of importance had come to a major holiday party sponsored by a governor. Dressed in a white taffeta gown, she walked out and got into her horse-drawn carriage as it was time to go home. In a freak accident, the carriage tipped over and killed her. Who wouldn’t want to haunt the Virginia Executive Mansion?


Spirit of Young Woman

This spirit is dressed in a formal white taffeta Gown. NOTE (First Sentence ofbox)

She has a nice nature, pleasing manners, with an eye for young, handsome men.

Only on occasion, she can’t help herself and touches and kisses handsome men very gently and then quickly exists.


A young, good-looking guard in the basement area, felt a cold, gentle hand caress his face, by this unseen presence of this young woman.

This scared him tremendously, and he flew up the stairs without touching them, they say.

A male guest sleeping in her favorite bedroom, was awakened by a gentle, cold kiss on the lips.


Appears in a solid form, looking very life-like, fooling the living into believing that she is real.

She likes to run around the mansion for chuckles. Butlers and security personnel, thinking she was an unauthorized alive guest would chase her only to see her disappear. A butler had chased her down the staircase into the basement where she disappeared.

Knows Her Way Around

She has walked through the room while people are sleeping there.

She has been seen in her favorite 2nd floor bedroom, going down the staircase and likes to explore the basement as well.

Gov. Phillip W. McKinney (1890-1894) was the first person to see her.

Gov. Phillip W. McKinney’s Experience

Being a hot, sticky day in Richmond, Gov. Phillip W. McKinney went into the guest bathroom to wash his face.

When he came out of the bathroom, he saw a solid apparition of a young woman sitting on a chair by the window.

She was an attractive young woman in flowing white taffeta attire, looking very much alive.

“Who is your guest in there?” McKinney asked his wife. “That was no guest”, she responded.

Other Experiences

Other governors have also encountered her; especially if they had good looks!

For instance, Governor Colton had experiences with this spirit during the 1970s.
He must of been a handsome man in the spirit’s eyes, so she appeared in front of him, to draw attention to herself.



Most Probably so! People continue to have positive personal experiences with this female spirit, who is truly enjoying her after-life residence. Since the 1890s’, many people who work or live in the Executive Mansion have had personal experiences with this female spirit who has a sense of fun and friendly manners; much like she was when she was alive. She must enjoy all the improvements and the beautiful additions. She may even take the tour with the visitors unseen.



Virginia Executive Mansion
Capitol Square,
Richmond, VA 23219

The Virginia Executive Mansion is located at the northeast corner of Capitol Square near the intersection of Broad and 12th St. in downtown Richmond.


  • Haunted Places: The National Directory, by Dennis William Hauck, Penguin Books, 2002.
  • The Guide to Virginia, Vol. 1, By L.B. Taylor, Pg. 310-314,, 2003
  • *

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Richmond Haunts in Virginia