AUSTIN EDITION Mansion donor says she feels 'betrayed'

Associated Press


An Associated Press article on page 1B Monday about the governor's mansion erroneously said the house overlooks downtown St. Paul and the Mississippi River.

----------------------------------------------------- WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The woman who donated the mansion used as the governor's residence since 1965 wanted to keep quiet about its closing for the sake of being polite.

"But now, at the 11th hour, I'm glad to say how I feel," said Olivia Irvine Dodge. "I feel very sad. Maybe I shouldn't use the word, but betrayed. It's been handled very badly."


The governor's residence will close Tuesday because of budget cuts. Gov. Jesse Ventura decided last month to close it after the Legislature cut his security budget.

Dodge's father, Horace Hills Irvine, built the 20-room mansion in 1910 on Summit Avenue, overlooking downtown St. Paul and the Mississippi River.

Irvine and his wife, Clotilde, lived in the home until his death in 1947. Clotilde died in 1964. Olivia Dodge and her sister, also named Clotilde, gave the house to the state the following year.

Dodge, who is 83 and the only survivor of the family, said Friday she has tried to stay out of the controversy and "stay polite."

She said she and her sister gave the house to the state for the people, not the governor.

"I believe in all my heart that one person, one governor, has no possible right to close it," Dodge said. "The governor is temporarily living in that house. He can't make a decision like that.

"Imagine any governor saying, 'Close the mansion.' It's not his to close. He's only occupying it for a number of years. How does he know how future governors would feel?"

Summit Avenue was still undeveloped and considered "way out on the prairie" when the house was built, she said. At the time the house went to the state, the neighborhood was deteriorating, and the new status of the governor's residence helped restore it.


To Dodge, the home is filled with happy memories, except for her first vivid memory.

On Christmas Eve, young Olivia was carried downstairs to see Santa, who had just arrived at the front door, covered with snow and stomping his feet. Her parents wanted to put her in his arms, but she howled in protest.

Years later, the Irvine children were having a party on the mansion lawn. With dancing, an orchestra and much laughing, the partiers got loud, and a neighbor complained to the police.

As midnight approached, an officer arrived at the door. Dodge's mother came downstairs in her bathrobe, her hair in curlers. She invited the policeman into the kitchen and served him coffee and pastry.

To the thoroughly charmed officer, she said, "We mustn't ruin the party for the young people. Let's let them have a good time." They did.

What To Read Next
Get Local