Roy Cooper Among “Lucky Few” Governors with State-Owned Vacation Home at his Disposal

Most governors couldn’t get caught in a brouhaha like the one surrounding Gov. Chris Christie, because New Jersey is one of only a handful of states with a state-owned vacation home for its chief executive.

A look at the home and others like it around the U.S.:


Christie was criticized for sunning himself with his family at Island Beach State Park, which was closed to the public because the Republican initiated a government shutdown.

Christie defended his use of the beach, saying he had previously announced his vacation plans and the media had simply “caught a politician keeping his word.” He says he wasn’t using any additional state services this weekend beyond the governor’s Ocean House — a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home hidden behind greenery along the park’s main road.

The cedar-shingled Cape Cod-style home was constructed by steel magnate Henry Phipps, a partner of Andrew Carnegie. Phipps had bought the park property in 1926 to turn it into an exclusive seashore resort. Only three large homes were built before the 1929 stock market crash halted construction. Phipps died the next year.

In 1953, the state purchased the Phipps estate and additional land to preserve the island’s natural beauty and create a recreation area. Island Beach opened as a state park in 1959.

For most of the year, Christie and his family live in their own home and have chosen not to live in the governor’s mansion in Princeton.


The state is currently finishing renovations to its beachfront governor’s mansion, built on property that was donated to the state in 1962 for use as an executive mansion. Governors beginning with George C. Wallace used the six-bedroom, four-bath house on and off until it was badly damaged by Hurricane Danny in 1997. The house is being renovated with BP grant money left over from the 2010 Gulf oil spill, and the state has said it plans to use the mansion for economic development events once the work is done. It’s on the Fort Morgan peninsula near Gulf Shores.


The Michigan governor’s summer residence on Mackinac Island is a three-story home on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. It was originally built as a summer cottage for a Chicago attorney and purchased by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission in 1944, according to the state. The 7,100-square-foot residence has 11 bedrooms. Thousands of people tour the first floor each summer and the governor hosts events there with national and state leaders. Gov. Rick Snyder’s press office didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.


North Carolina’s governors wanting a getaway have one waiting about 250 miles west of the state capital in Raleigh — a 6,000-square-foot, contemporary split-level home on a mountain overlooking Asheville and other Appalachian peaks. The home and the 18-acre grounds complete with roaming bears and outdoor terraces were donated to the state in 1964 by Asheville’s chamber of commerce.

A nonprofit group rents out the house and grounds to dozens of civic organizations through the year, generating income that leaves taxpayers responsible for about half the $15,500 annual maintenance costs. Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded in Arizona in 2011, recuperated there while she was seeing an Asheville-area physician.


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