The vestibule is a pragmatic space in Minnesota. The outside double doors are decorated with wrought iron grillwork. The inside glass doors contain 36 panels, six of which have a faintly colored flower and leaf design in the Art Nouveau style. There are wooden built-in benches for boot storage.
The front hall sets the stage for what is seen throughout the Residence and includes many Tudor details. Each room highlights a different species of wood. The paneling in the front hall is oak. Some of the Tudor features are: the two interior balconies, the elegant staircase with carved balusters and newel posts, which was a Tudor invention (previously, stairs circled around a central pillar), the wood paneling, and decorative ceiling elements.
During the Irvine era, this centrally located room was where the entire family gathered to greet important guests who came to visit. Olivia Irvine Dodge remembered sitting on the stairs and peeking through the railings as her parents entertained. This is also the space where Santa arrived each Christmas for the Irvine children. One of Olivia's earliest memories is watching Santa arrive on Christmas Eve, covered in snow and stomping his feet (years later, she learned that this Santa was actually Slunkey Norton, the family’s chimney sweep).
Today, this room is used by the Governor in much the same way. In fact, First Lady Iantha LeVander learned a very important hosting lesson right here. She and Governor Harold LeVander decided to host a party for local news staff. They did not know the address of a station manager at a local TV station, so she asked a volunteer to look it up. The night of the party, a couple showed up, holding hands and clearly alone in the chummy crowd. They were complete strangers – who happened to have the same name as the station manager. The LeVanders and others took turns talking to them since they didn’t know anyone. Later, it was learned that the couple was new to the area, and when they had received an invitation to the Governor’s Residence, they thought it was a nice gesture of welcome.
As the first public room open to guests, this front hall was built to impress. While status was important, elements of pragmatism are also evident. The home was originally wired for electricity and plumbed for gas light fixtures. Observant visitors will also notice a metal socket which was used for a central vacuum system. This is located near the base of the stairs.
Another nod to practicality is seen on the stairs. Visitors can note the plexiglass installed in the gaps between the banisters. The Irvines had screening installed in the gaps to prevent children from falling through. Later, the Andersons installed plexiglass for the same purpose, and Governor Dayton is using it to protect the dogs.