Executive Mansion director to address historical society

David Robinson will share stories Thursday evening
Sep. 08, 2013 @ 06:35 AM

David Robinson, director of the North Carolina Executive Mansion, will be the guest speaker on Thursday, Sept, 12, at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Church, 316 N. Main Street, Rutherfordton.

Robinson,formerly of Rutherfordton, will present a program on the history and daily operations of the governor’s residence for the Rutherford County Historical Society. The public is invited to attend.

Robinson, a native of England, and his wife Lynn, are former residents of Rutherford County and have close ties to the county.

Lynn Robinson is a first cousin to North Carolina Secretary of Commerce, Sharon Decker of Rutherfordton.

Robinson was innkeeper at the Firehouse Inn in Rutherfordton and he has extensive experience as a butler. 

During an interview with Robinson in 2008, he said he fell into "butling" by accident. After serving as a butler once on the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth 2, he enjoyed the job so much he later became a private butler in the United States. He was never a private butler in England. 

Robinson also worked a brief period for Rutherford County's Tourism Develoment Authority before going to Greenbrier Resort as Director of Guest Relations. 

He is a vice president of the International Institute of Modern Butlers, a Florida-based training company. Among the institute's clients is the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the famed hotel that reopened on March 1 after a $400 million, three-year renovation.

Robinson spent 26 days there in 2008 training the hotel's 17 new butlers.

During the program Thursday, the historical society will display a collection of artifacts used at the mansion during the administration of the late Governor William B. Umstead (1953-1954). First Lady Merle Davis Umstead was a Rutherford County native. 

Among items for display will be objects formerly shown at the North Carolina Museum of History, including the silk top hat worn by Governor Umstead to his inauguration and a harmonica he played at the inaugural ball. Other artifacts include a handbag carried to the 1953 ball by the governor’s daughter, Merle, and gilt-edged stationary, calling cards, and place cards, used by the Umsteads. The items have been loaned to the historical society for display by Merle Umstead Richey, of Durham.

The North Carolina Executive Mansion is among the oldest official governor’s residences still in active use in the nation, said historical society president Robin S. Lattimore.

The mansion was completed in 1891.

The mansion was built with prison labor, under the direction of Col. William J. Hicks, warden of the state penitentiary. 

For more information call Lattimore at (828)447-1474, or email:robinslattimore@bellsouth.net.

<B>SIDEBAR STORY" 

Book Reveals county's connections to Executive Mansion

From staff reports

FOREST CITY — An heirloom-quality book highlighting local connections to the governor’s mansion in Raleigh has been published by the Rutherford County Historical Society. "Treasure of State: Reflections of North Carolina’s Executive Mansion", by Robin S. Lattimore, will be presented at Historical Society’s meeting on Thursday.

The book contains a collection of nine narrative essays and more than 30 vintage and contemporary photographs of the mansion, as well as others from various gubernatorial administrations. Several of the images of the mansion’s staterooms were gleaned from the collections of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Division of Archives and History.

The book provides a glimpse into the life of Rutherford County native Merle Davis Umstead, former First Lady of North Carolina (1953-54), memories of Merle Umstead Richey who lived in the mansion as a childand the numerous contributions of designer Dennis Toney to the mansion’s décor during the last 40 years.

It also highlights the story of inaugural fashions created by Doncaster for various first ladies and an interview with David Robinson, current director of the Executive Mansion. 

There are stories of how first lady Jeanelle Coulter Moore worked to preserve the home in the 1960s, and how rug maker, Ronnie Mosseller, once created carpets for the mansion’s staterooms at his local studio.  

Lattimore, of Rutherfordton, is a former North Carolina Historian of the Year and has received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. He is a historian for Rutherford County and president of the Rutherford County Historical Society. 

Copies of the book will be sold for $10 each. All proceeds benefit the Rutherford County Historical Society.

To place an order by mail, call (828) 447-1474, email: robinslattimore@bellsouth.net, or write RCHS – P.O. Box 1044, Rutherfordton, NC 28139.