HARRISBURG — The lieutenant governor’s residence, a historic 1940s home equipped with an industrial kitchen, five-car garage, and swimming pool, sits empty.
Now, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) is planning to introduce legislation that would require the state to sell the 2,400-square-foot mansion, which sits on Fort Indiantown Gap, a military base in Lebanon County.
“Sen. Scarnati thinks Pennsylvania is an anomaly,” said Drew Crompton, Scarnati’s chief of staff. “We’re the only state that has one and he doesn’t see the need.”
Pennsylvania is, indeed, the only state that has a state-maintained residence for its second-in-command, according to the National Lieutenant Governors Association. The group doesn’t keep comprehensive historical records on these residences, but its director and CEO, Julia Hurst Brossart, said she believes they were never common.
Scarnati put out a co-sponsorship memo last month saying that if the residence is sold, funds would go toward affordable housing for veterans. The residence wouldn’t be appraised unless the legislature passeda bill to sell it, so its current worth is unknown, said Troy Thompson, spokesperson for the state’s Department of General Services.
The three-floor stone residence is furnished with some original 1940s furniture and paintings of such founding fathers as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. There’s also an antique grandfather clock in the living room and a crystal chandelier in the dining room.
Current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said he does not plan to live in the residence and supports its going to the “highest, best use” for the state.
“The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania doesn’t owe me and my family a place to live,” he said.
Fetterman added that the Pennsylvania National Guard was interested in obtaining the residence, which was originally built in 1945 to house the adjutant general, the supervising general of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Near the residence are several other homes owned by the state, some of which are also unoccupied and meant for military leaders, Thompson said.
The last lieutenant governor to live in the residence was Mike Stack, the former state senator from Northeast Philadelphia who lived there with his wife, Tonya. The pair were investigated for verbally abusing state employees who worked at the residence, as well as police who provided security for them. Stack lost a reelection bid to Fetterman in the 2018 primary.
Scarnati spent time at the residence after he was named lieutenant governor following the death of Catherine Baker Knoll in 2008. Since Stack left office in January, the house has sat vacant. Officials say it costs $400,000 a year to maintain the property, regardless of whether it is occupied. That money goes toward maintenance, pool upkeep, and the salary of a full-time groundskeeper.
The Department of General Services will also repaint the house and add accessibility features and a security gate this summer, mandated by the federal government. Fetterman last week opened the pool for use by children in the state, for a “summer of swimming.”
Former State Rep. Rick Saccone (R., Allegheny), a prominent advocate for selling the mansion, said it may be easier to turn it over to the military or another government agency because it is on the military base. He and other legislators had “entertained the idea” while he was in office but never introduced a bill.
“At least then it would be used,” he said. “Anything other than it being empty is a better purpose for it.”