Sticker Shock Over Governor's Mansion Repairs

The historical building may be endangered but so is the state's pocketbook

The charred Governor's Mansion
The charred Governor's Mansion (Photo by John Anderson)

Last week, the organization Preservation Texas placed the Governor's Mansion at the top of a list of the state's most endangered historic buildings. Its timing couldn't have been better – just a week earlier, the Senate Finance Committee balked at the State Preservation Board's estimated $27.3 million price tag to repair the 153-year-old residence, which was severely damaged in an arson attack last summer.

"That's a lot of money," said Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, D-Mission. He asked why Texans shouldn't just take the cheaper route of knocking down the structure and building a new one. "If we built a new house, it would not be the historic Governor's Man­sion; it would be a new home," said John Sneed of the State Preservation Board, which cares for the mansion and Capitol. "What's the difference?" asked Hinojosa, apparently not one for nostalgia.

Sneed and Dealey Herndon, project manager for the mansion restoration, said a completely new residence would cost $14 million to $15 million. The cost of the restoration, they said, included closing off Colorado Street in front of the mansion, enlarging the grounds (a security suggestion from the Department of Public Safety), adding a wing to help meet Americans With Disabil­i­ties Act requirements, and improving its functionality as an actual residence ("There's almost no closet space," Herndon said). Of that $27.3 million, only $2.1 million would be covered by the highly touted private donations drive pushed by first lady Anita Perry.

"After September it's [been] a tough year," complained Sen. Robert Duncan of Lub­bock. "This is more than a restoration. [It's] a hard sell to a constituency during a period of time when we're sitting here listening to [testimony about] hospitals, and major damages have been done on the coast."

"I'm the ultimate practical preservationist," Herndon told the committee, insisting that she had looked for ways to cut expenses. But "it's not just a matter of looking for savings," Laredo Sen. Judith Zaffirini said. "It's making some changes. Because I do not think that your proposal as you've presented it today would be approved by this panel. ... With all due respect, I suggest you go back and try to change it in ways that would be acceptable to members of the Finance Committee."

Sneed was before the Finance Committee again on Tuesday, and Chairman Steve Ogden of Bryan suggested he research whether federal stimulus money could be used for the renovation.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Governor's Mansion
People's Veto
People's Veto
Young activist protests against cancer cuts at guv mansion

Mary Tuma, June 12, 2015

DPS Turns to Secret Service for Security Advice
DPS Turns to Secret Service for Security Advice
Mansion fire not the 'finest moment' for DPS

Lee Nichols, June 27, 2008

More On the Lege
Lege Lines: Stretching Toward a Sunset
Lege Lines: Stretching Toward a Sunset
Don’t praise the Senate GOP for working quickly to pass what’s needed

Mary Tuma, July 21, 2017

Lege Lines
Lege Lines
Sine die at last, transportation, water, and more

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 9, 2013


Governor's Mansion, 81st Legislature, Preservation Texas, Chuy Hinojosa, Dealey Herndon

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle