Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Patricia Donoho Hughes (1930-2010)
MSA SC 3520-2296
First Lady of Maryland, 1979-1987

Patricia Donoho Hughes is the wife of Harry Hughes, the fifty-seventh governor of Maryland serving from 1979-1987. In order to make Government House "a place where visitors have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of Maryland and its history," Mrs. Hughes initiated an evaluation of the house and its contents. In consultation with the staff of the Maryland Historical Society, Mrs. Hughes oversaw the installation of seven period rooms, each designed to reflect a particular period of Maryland's history. Funded by private sources, this major decorative undertaking combined items from the state's collection along with borrowed pieces from other Maryland institutions. In addition to her interest in Government House, Mrs. Hughes was a key political advisor to her husband. The Hughes' have two daughters, Ann and Elizabeth.

On May 6, 1980, Governor Harry Roe Hughes signed into law Senate Bill 458, An Act Concerning the  Government House Trust.  With that act, the interpretation of the state rooms of Government House became the responsibility of  the Gallery Committee of the Maryland Historical Society, in consultation with the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property.  It was assumed that this oversight by a panel of outside experts, working with the body responsible for the state-owned artwork, would provide consistency and cohesiveness to the residence's furnishing and interpretive plans over the course of many years.

The guiding force behind the establishment of the Government House Trust was First Lady Patricia Donoho Hughes.  Upon moving into the residence in January 1979, she very quickly identified the need to ensure that Government House served as a public residence which would inspire the pride of all Marylanders.  Some language that was removed from the preamble of the bill reveals at least some of the issues with which Mrs. Hughes  struggled: "Over the course of the last 100 years an inconsistent, if not conflicting variety of furnishings, paintings, and decorative arts have been acquired, at State expense, for the State rooms of Government House."  While this critique of Government House's past was not included in the final version of the bill, the principles that guided the restoration of the house under Mrs. Hughes are clearly evident in the legislation's text.  The bill said that, "Government House holds the significant potential for providing its thousands of annual visitors, at no increased cost to the taxpayers, a unique opportunity to expand their knowledge of Maryland's rich history and the work of her artists and craftsmen, past and present."

In hearings  before the General Assembly about Senate Bill 458,  State Archivist Edward C. Papenfuse summarized the strengths of the new oversight arrangements: "This bill is in the best tradition of combining private expertise with public responsibility. It assigns a public trust to a committee of the Maryland Historical Society that has already demonstrated its capacity to carry out that trust, while encouraging the watchful eye of a sister public agency whose responsibilities are for the care, preservation, and proper display of State owned artistic property elsewhere in the Annapolis complex."

Even before the passage of Senate Bill 458, Mrs. Hughes had begun to address the challenge of renovating  Government House, and the establishment of the Trust was to make her task easier. Working with the Maryland Historical Society, Mrs. Hughes, immediately on moving into Government House,  embarked on a furnishing and interpretive plan aimed at having the public rooms in Government House reflect various periods in Maryland history while highlighting the history and variety of Maryland artists and craftsmen. In January, Mrs. Hughes learned that Mrs. Walter Monday, wife of the then Vice President, was coming to Annapolis in early March. She immediately mobilized the Maryland Historical Society and together they completed the first room, the Federal Reception Room, in time for Mrs. Mondale to cut the ribbon on March 8.  Featured in the room was a secretary that had belonged to the family of the U.S. Senator from Maryland, George Radcliffe, and was lent by the daughters of the noted Baltimore cabinetmaker, Enrico Liberti who made the reproductions of the 1897 John Shaw desks which are now in the Old Senate Chamber.  Also in the room were two Baltimore Federal cardtables, a Baltimore clock, and two paintings by notable Maryland women: Sarah Mariam Peale's portrait of General Otho Williams and Jane Stuart's portrait of Washington at Dorchester Heights.  While in Annapolis, Mrs. Mondale also spoke to the Legislative Study Group's Speakers Forum in the Joint Hearing Room of the Legislative Services Building. This group, which consisted of more than one-half of the members of the General Assembly, was dedicated to improving the efficiency and and effectiveness of the legislative process. The Speakers Forum was designed to provide them with better insight into the complex issues of the day. Mrs. Mondale spoke on the subject of "The States and the Arts, "  a subject to which she had dedicated much of her time over the past two years, including traveling some 300,000 miles to promote the arts around the country. She made a plea for the legislators to fund the arts and preservation, saying that they were "part of politics in the very best sense of the word. They can make our communities better places." (Baltimore Sun, no date)  (MSA SC4975-9-12)

Through the process of designing and furnishing this first period room, it became apparent that private gifts and donations would be required in order for the project to be completely realized without using public funds or exhausting the resources and collections of the Maryland Historical Society. Mrs. Hughes and her staff identified other states and executive residences which relied on outside donations for funding the conservation, restoration and acquisition of works of art.  An important precedent was the White House Preservation Fund which was established in May 1979 with the goal of raising $25 million to assemble and maintain a permanent collection of fine arts and furnishings for the White House.  Building on this momentum, the Friends of Government House, Inc., a tax-exempt, non-profit organization, was incorporated in September of that year to raise funds for redecorating and refurbishing Government House.  In establishing the Friends of Government House, Governor Hughes called it a mechanism to " a high standard of taste, consistency, and historic authenticity in its appearance." (press release 3/9/81) (MSA SC 4075-3-7)  The first gift to the organization was made by its first president, Leonard C. Crewe, Jr. of Cockeysville, a set of six Maryland Empire side chairs. (press release, 10/18/79) (MSA SC 4075-3-7)

With the means in place to address the overall furnishing plan, Mrs. Hughes and Stiles Colwill, Chief Curator of the Maryland Historical Society, began to discuss with donors the refurbishing of Government House.  Donors willing to contribute valuable fine and decorative arts, however, required assurance that their gifts would be properly inventoried, insured, and preserved.  Donors' concerns were heightened at that time by the controversy surrounding a number of objects which were removed from Government House in 1979 when the Mandels left the residence.  In order to address these apprehensions on the part of donors and to provide consistent advice and oversight, the Government House Trust was established in May 1980. Comprised of the Gallery Committee of the Maryland Historical Society, it worked in consultation with  those responsible for the management and preservation of the state art collection, the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property of the Maryland State Archives.

With the trust in place, the public campaign to refurbish Government House began.  An early part of the campaign included bringing the residence's silver and china collections up to a level which could support the large-scale entertaining that was expected of a governor and his wife. A special fund was created within the Friends of Government House for this purpose, after the Hughes dropped a budget request for $12,918 to purchase 141 pieces of sterling silver flatware and 80 peices of china to bring the table settings up to 72. (Capital 3/4/81) (MSA SC 4075-2-8).  While this "china policy" caused controversy in the press and the General Assembly, it was successful in achieving its goal. One Maryland businessman (James Rouse) was able to raise $9,100 from nine fellow businessmen for the fund. (Post 10/28/81) (MSA SC 4075-2-8)

The plan for renovation and interpretation was governed by the principle that each room should reflect Maryland history and culture, and by the resolve that the furniture should be usable.  Friends of Government House directed contributions of money and objects from the private sector into renovating the public rooms one at a time.   Mrs. Hughes made certain that all donors were  thanked individually, and not only drafted her own letters, but also penned those for her husband's signature.  The result was a remarkable accomplishment and a widely-praised renovation and interpretation of the six public rooms in Government House.

Completed in 1986, the rooms highlighted Maryland history and culture from the eighteenth century to the present.  The Drawing Room, furnished in the eighteenth century style, focused on the time period of Maryland's early governors, and a portrait of Thomas Johnson, the state's first governor, hung above the mantel.  The Dining Room was likewise furnished in the eighteenth century style, but these furnishings were Colonial Revival reproductions by the well-known Potthast furniture company in Baltimore which had been purchased for Government House during the ???? administration.  The Federal Reception Room drew its inspiration from the federal style fireplace surround, while the Empire Parlor included a range of Maryland furniture forms, and the walls matched the exact shade of vibrant yellow found on the walls of Homewood, the Carroll family seat in Baltimore.  The Victorian Parlor was furnished with the heavy and substantive furniture so common in the era, the walls were appropriately papered, and the presence of marble statuary evoked the feeling of Victorian Maryland.  With the completion of these six room, then, the goals of the Friends of Government House and the Government House Trust were realized.

Throughout their two administrations, the Hughes opened Government House for lunches, receptions, and dinners for many civic groups from all over the state. To celebrate the completion of the reinstallation project and to unveil the final room of the project, the Billy Baldwin 20th Century Room, a black tie event, billed as "The Party of the Century," was held on June 14, 1985.  This finale to the reinstallation came just one year after one of the most glittering occasions of the entire Hughes administration: a dinner in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Kent who were visiting Maryland as part of the festivities for the state's 350th anniversary celebrations. A menu featuring Maryland delicacies, including bluefish canapes, soft shell crabs, and Maryland wines. (MSA SC 4975-25-16) This was the first time that Government House had entertained a member of the British Royal family since the visit of H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1952. (Check this)

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