Texas Our Texas
Thursday, July 19, 2012
When master builder Abner Cook drew the first plans for the Texas Governor’s Mansion in the 1850s, he couldn’t have anticipated the events the home would bear witness to over the next 150 years.
He couldn’t have known Gov. Connally would recover in the mansion from the gunshot wound he received while riding in President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas.First Lady Anita Perry points out the nail marks from Gov. Hogg’s famous distraction of banister-sliding for his children that remains part of the history of the Governor’s Mansion.He couldn’t have known Gov. Hogg would drive nails into the banister of the grand staircase to keep his children from sliding down it, or guessed the number of beloved family pets who would scamper around the grounds, or that the Queen of England would visit in 1991, five years after her son, Prince Charles, visited to help celebrate Texas’ 150th birthday.
He couldn’t have known that we very nearly lost “Texas’ front porch,” the iconic landmark he created, to a senseless arson in 2008.
But what he did know all those years ago is that Texas needed a home for the ages – the people’s house – a place governors and their families could call home that embodied the spirit of the young state, and stood out on Austin’s frontier landscape.
Mr. Cook’s vision became a reality in columns and brick, in the hustle of children playing on the grounds and the stillness of the porch on a Hill Country summer evening. And his legacy is one I’m proud to say will continue, because Texas refused to let an arsonist write the last page of the history book on the Governor’s Mansion.
Thanks to generous donations by Texans from all walks of life, the foresight of our leaders in the Legislature, and countless hours of hard work by dedicated preservationists, we not only restored the historic, one of a kind features that were damaged by fire, water and smoke, we also made some much needed improvements to help the Governor’s Mansion keep up with the times and stand ready for the future.
Not only is the people’s house now handicap accessible, but the new geoexchange system will provide more energy efficient heating and cooling, and has the 156 year old home on its way to receiving a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and Austin Energy’s Green Building rating. These are things I think Mr. Cook would be proud of.
The story of the Governor’s Mansion started with the commitment of the Texas Legislature, was brought to life by Mr. Cook’s craftsmanship, and sustained by the more than 40 families that have called it home over the years. Rick and I are proud to see this Texas treasure restored, and can only imagine all that this home will bear witness to over the next 150 years.