Ehrlichs Make Themselves at Home in Annapolis
New First Family Moves Belongings Into Renovated Governor's Mansion

By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 21, 2003; Page B04

In a soft sigh of brakes and careful parking, the yellow moving truck pulled up to Maryland's stately, red-brick governor's mansion and started to unload: First came the blue rugs, laid down in the Great Front Hall to protect the hardwood floors and Oriental carpets.

Then came the quilted blankets, meticulously taped around the banister. Finally, a myriad of first family belongings streamed in, including a dark gray Precor elliptical trainer, several unassembled pieces of a Universal gym system, plus one white lampshade, one Schwinn 10-speed, a bright red tricycle and two yellow Tonka trucks.

"Ohhhhh," Maryland's first son, Drew, squealed yesterday as he greeted his old toys in his new home. Though Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has presided over Maryland for 37 days, he has been commuting from his two-story townhouse in Timonium, where his wife and son were still living.

No more. Yesterday afternoon, the Ehrlichs threw open the front doors to their recently redecorated, 52-room home, and the movers started tramping in with their stuff.

To celebrate the occasion, 31/2-year-old Drew took pictures with a blue disposal camera and wore a sweat shirt with a bright red firetruck, which neatly matched his new digs: His gray bedroom is bordered with red and yellow trucks, and his "big boy" bunk beds -- he plans to sleep on the top bunk, he bravely announced -- are adorned with truck-dappled comforters.

"He can have sleepovers now," someone noted.

"Yeah!" Drew chirped eagerly, tilting back his head and looking at his parents.

Drew's room isn't the only change in the family's living quarters. First lady Kendel Ehrlich has moved swiftly to warm up the upstairs with vivid colors, such as the burnt orange she painted the master bedroom and the chocolate brown wallpaper of their bathroom, which together, she said, look "just gorgeous!"

Their family room is a new butter yellow, and she plans to add, soon, red draperies, red furniture and a floral carpeting with lively red and yellow accents. Already, she plans to paint another room sage green, and reds will recolor the family's private dining room, where the "very cold" white wallpaper "is kind of formal for a 31/2 -year-old," especially one who, she added, "needs to feel comfortable when eating chicken nuggets."

She has also added a bathtub to Drew's bathroom and remodeled two other upstairs bathrooms. An Ehrlich spokesman could not provide a cost estimate yesterday for the renovations.

The Ehrlichs hosted the curious press corps in the salmon-walled front hall of the mansion, where an enormous portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, who lived from 1609 to 1669 and was the woman for "whom Maryland was named," hung on the 12-foot wall to their right. Queen Henrietta Maria was an imposing woman in a long gold dress, draped in pearls.

In contrast, the Ehrlichs were dressed down. The governor wore a blue shirt and tie -- but no jacket -- and the first lady, clad in a hooded sweat shirt, black tasseled scarf, blue sweat pants and knee-high snow boots, looked ready to start unpacking.

Their message yesterday was clear, in both word and attire: Government House, as the governor's mansion is known, will be the People's House, and its public accessibility will, Gov. Ehrlich hopes, bring more tourist dollars to the state capital. Some of the first events, he announced, will be legislative dinners and an Easter egg roll this spring.

Midway through the news conference, Drew began hugging his mom's left knee and yawning, so his dad scooped him up and talked more about plans for the mansion. The governor was asked whether he would be taking advantage of the dog door Gov. Parris N. Glendening had installed for his third wife's terriers.

Ehrlich looked down at his son, whose chin was still resting on his shoulder, and answered, slyly, "We have talked about a D-O-G."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company