First House: Two Centuries with Virginia’s First Families


49      Walls do, indeed, talk in this compelling chronicle of Virginia’s 200-year-old executive mansion. Created to coincide with the mansion’s bicentennial in 2013, First House brings to life the private stories of the governors and their families who shaped the destiny of this unique home.  Lavishly illustrated with images old and new, most seen here for the first time, the book traces triumph and tragedy through the turbulence of wars, fires, economic depressions, and renovations in a story that mirrors Virginia’s progress from the nineteenth century into the twenty-first. This stately home on Capitol Square, completed in 1813 and occupied by more than fifty “first families,” has truly earned its place in history as Virginia’s “First House.”

Retail $34.95

Governor’s Mansion Press Release:

In 2013, Virginia’s Executive Mansion-the oldest occupied governor’s residence in all the fifty states-marks its 200th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, the Citizens Advisory Council for Interpreting and Furnishing the Executive Mansion is planning a yearlong series of special events at the mansion and on Capitol Square, capped by the publication of an official bicentennial history of Virginia’s “First House” – a must-read for lovers of Virginia’s proud past.


This handsome coffee table book, written by historian Mary Miley Theobald with an introduction by novelist David Baldacci, and designed by Carol Roper Hoffler of Literati, will chronicle the mansion’s important role as residence, office, and social setting for the past fifty-four Virginia governors. Conceived during the Revolutionary War, built during the War of 1812, and looted during the Civil War, the mansion has endured fires, threats, riots, and hurricanes. Research has unearthed a wealth of stories and illustrations never before published. Tales of famous guests, pets and pranks, and ghosts weave through two centuries of additions, modernizations, and changing interior fashions. Newly discovered photographs, drawings, paintings, and antiques from private and public collections throughout Virginia and around the country bring these stories to life. Interviews with all ten living First Ladies provided a peek into the upstairs lives of the commonwealth’s First Families.


Governor and Mrs. Bob McDonnell inspect the book's pages as they come off the press.

Governor and Mrs. Bob McDonnell inspect the book’s pages as they come off the press.


Signing books at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with First Lady Maureen McDonnell who introduced my talk

Signing books at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with First Lady Maureen McDonnell who introduced my talk












First House throws open the doors to one of the nation’s oldest executive mansions and shows us 200 years of history—the history of Virginia and the nation, and the more personal history of the nearly 60 ‘first families’ who have left their mark on this remarkable place. It is the next best thing to a personal tour and a wonderful celebration of an irreplaceable piece of America’s cultural heritage.”  –Stephanie Meeks, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, DC


An enjoyable read, First House is a worthy tribute to the rare architectural gem and premier centerpiece of our Capitol’s history that has hosted Virginia’s first families and their visitors for two centuries. Its pages tell the story of a residence that is both a public treasure and a private sanctuary, giving voice to the wonderful families fortunate to have called it home. —Mary Jane Hogue, Director, Historic Richmond Foundation


“She tells the story of the mansion’s construction, renovations and additions with a lively touch. Passages most likely to engage the reader, thought, are those in wich Theobald discusses the commonwealth’s first families and their activities, which she recounts with verve, insight and humor.” —Jay Strafford, Books editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch