Gov. Mansion Restoration Yields Unexpected Find

Wednesday, Jan 5, 2011  |  Updated 9:30 AM CDT
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Gov. Mansion Restoration Yields Unexpected Find

AP

The historic Texas Governor's Mansion is shown early Sunday, June 8, 2008, in Austin, Texas, after a fire swept through it earlier in the morning. The fire left much of the 150-year-old home charred and inflicted damage that state officials described as "bordering on catastrophic." No one was inside at the time and the cause of the blaze is unknown. The mansion had been undergoing a $10 million renovation. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

The $26 million renovation of the arson-damaged Texas Governor's Mansion has revealed an unexpected view of the world then and now.

Dealey Herndon, the project manager, says restoration officials made a surprising discovery about the tall windows at the front of the historic structure, built in 1856.

The windows were built to lift about 18 inches into a pocket built in the mansion's exterior walls, apparently so people could walk out on to the porch, on both the first and second floors, the Austin American-Statesman reported for its Wednesday editions.

"It was a fun find," said Herndon, who also was involved in the mansion's earlier restoration in the 1980s. "We didn't know they did that. I don't imagine they'd been opened in years."

No one has been charged over the June 2008 fire that damaged the unoccupied residence during renovations. Gov. Rick Perry and his wife continue living in a rental property.

The mansion is expected to reopen in 2012, officials said.

The exterior restoration will cost $4 million, and the roof should be in place by late April, said Herndon.

"Once the new roof is completed, we can start the interior restoration," she said. Crews are prepping for construction of an addition, which is expected to cost $1.2 million or less, according to Herndon.

About 95 percent of the mansion's signature front columns, Greek revival style, can be saved, Herndon said.

White Construction Co. of Austin is doing the exterior work. A contract has yet to be awarded for the interior restoration.

Security is tight.

Bidders and contractors are required to sign nondisclosure agreements. The Texas Department of Public Safety clears any workers before the crews are allowed to enter the mansion grounds.

"Everybody on site is screened by DPS," said Herndon, recalling that the restoration of the Texas Capitol during the 1990s entailed no such restrictions. "We're living in a different world now."

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