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    Authentic: Governor Henry D. McMaster and First Lady Peggy McMaster

    Behind the stately wrought iron gate near the corner of Lincoln and Laurel Streets in downtown Columbia, you’ll find the last remaining building of the Arsenal Military Academy sitting on 9 acres of land alongside two beautiful Antebellum homes. Built in 1855, the building served as barracks for the officers of the Academy until the Civil War began.


    After fighting in a skirmish outside of Columbia, the soldiers returned to find their Academy in ruins, having been burned by General Sherman’s army. The building, along with the two homes, had been spared and after the war, it was converted into the Governor’s Mansion. 150 years later, the Governor’s Mansion stands firm on top of Arsenal Hill in downtown Columbia and it’s where Governor Henry McMaster and First Lady Peggy McMaster call home.


    “This house is a happy place,” Governor Henry McMaster said. “It’s full of fascinating history, furniture, portraits, and the history of our state. Did you know that there are people who’ve lived in our state their whole life and have never set foot in the Governor’s Mansion before? We want to change that. This is the front door to our state and we want everyone who visits to be comfortable and pleased with their time here, and to see that South Carolina is the prettiest state in the world.”


    This year, Governor McMaster and First Lady Peggy McMaster will continue the tradition of welcoming guests for their Holiday Open House. They will open the front doors to the community and invite them in to see the history, tradition, and beauty that’s found within the walls of the Governor’s Mansion.


    “The Columbia Garden Club does the decorating,” First Lady McMaster said. “They’re decorating elves, and they arrive the Monday after Thanksgiving to spend the week working their magic” The entire home is decorated from top to bottom in preparation for the holiday season. A stunning tree stands tall each year in the Large Drawing Room with thousands of lights woven between each branch. Garlands or wreaths make their way up the bannister of the grand staircase to the second floor and holiday cheer can be found bursting from within each room of the home. It’s the staircase though that reminds First Lady McMaster of one of her family’s Christmas traditions.


    “Every Christmas morning, we’d make the kids sit at the top of the stairs before they could come downstairs to their presents,” Mrs. McMaster said. “Once we moved into this house and they saw the number of steps, they said ‘No way!’ We might try to get them and their spouses to do it this year, though!”


    For the McMaster Family, the Christmas celebrations extend past December 25th.


    “The day after Christmas, we always have something to look forward to,” Governor McMaster said. “We have a big family gathering in Effingham—200 or more people. Growing up, it was our chance to run wild on the farm. There was a big fireplace where they’d roast a pig, everyone would bring food, and we’d look through all of the genealogical charts seeing where everyone in the family came from.”


    Throughout all the holiday seasons that Governor McMaster has celebrated, the traditions observed, and the memories created, one Christmas morning in particular stands out the most to him.


    “My most exciting Christmas morning was when I walked down the steps and saw my red bicycle waiting for me,” Governor McMaster said. “I can see it now—bright red, big handlebars, a horn on the front in the middle. My brother John had one, too. We hopped right on and zip! Right out the front door we went.”


    Create new memories this holiday season with Governor and First Lady McMaster and make plans to visit the Governor’s Mansion this December.


    December 9, 2019 from 5:30–7:30pm
    Free, guests are encouraged to bring donations for the Harvest Hope Food Bank