Governor's Mansion May Get Expansion

By Mike Ward
|  Thursday, Oct 29, 2009  |  Updated 2:00 PM CDT
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Governor's Mansion May Get Expansion

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arson is suspected in a fire that swept through the historic Texas Governor's Mansion in June 2008 and left much of the 152-year-old home charred and severely damaged.

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A two-story addition should be built to the north of the arson-gutted Texas Governor's Mansion to make the home "more livable" for the state's first families and add much-needed space, new details of the showcase project reveal.

Dealey Herndon, the project manager, said the addition would add approximately 1,000 square feet of space, most all of it to be used as private quarters for the first family.

The addition would be connected to the house only by an enclosed walkway, known architecturally as a hyphenated addition, not built onto the historic building.

In a presentation to the Texas Historical Commission meeting in El Paso on Thursday morning, officials with the State Preservation Board that is overseeing the $26 million restoration project said the north addition appears the best solution among well over a dozen alternatives that were considered.

While recommended by the project managers, the proposal faces opposition and questions from some historical commission officials, who argue that it is too intrusive to the historic appearance of the mansion.

The historical agency must approve a permit for the addition because the mansion is a registered historic structure.

"I think we can get additional space without going to a hyphenated addition," said Commissioner Donna Carter, an Austin architect. "We just don't agree at this point on which way to go."

The new conceptual plan is much different from what was earlier publicly discussed. The original concept was to build a small addition directly onto the north side of the mansion's 1914 addition -- at the northwest corner of the two-story brick manse -- that would have had little impact on the public view from the front of the house.

As conceived, the new addition could be clearly seen from Colorado Street -- which officials are also considering closing to improve security at the official governor's residence.

The addition would include two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor, a connecting stairway and a kitchen, storage and office space on the first floor.

It would be connected to the historic 1856 mansion by a so-called "hyphen," an enclosed hallway. While final designs have not been completed, Herndon said it would generally match or complement the historic appearance of the mansion.

Cost for the addition is expected to be about $1.2 million, to be paid for through a private fundraising campaign that has been under way for more than a year, officials said. By last month, the fund had raised more then $3.5 million.

"Our team feels strongly that this is the best option," she said. "There's no other option to look at."

The mansion was heavily damaged by an arson fire in June 2008. Gov. Rick Perry and his wife had moved out for a $10 million renovation project to fix safety problems and structural degradation, so nobody was injured in the pre-dawn blaze.

The Perrys are living in a 6,000-square-foot gated rental house near Barton Creek Country Club at a cost to the state of $9,900 per month.

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