Friday, November 23, 2012

The Texas Governor's Mansion

The Texas Governor's Mansion, which is located a block southwest of the Texas State Capitol Building in downtown Austin, is the most historic home in the Austin real estate market and the longest continuously inhabited executive residence west of the Mississippi River. Built in 1856, the Governor's Mansion underwent construction after the Texas Legislature appropriated ,500 in order for a suitable home to be built for the 5th governor of Texas, Elisha Pease, and his wife, Lucadia.

The mansion is a Texas historical landmark, and the Greek Revival style home was built by master architect and builder Abner Cook, who used buff colored bricks and lumber from Bastrop to build the home, adapting it to frontier life. The mansion, which has floor to ceiling windows and a deep veranda, is cooled in part by wide hallways which provide ventilation in the summer.

The home is basically square with four main rooms separated by a wide hallway down the middle, and there are servant's quarters and a kitchen in the rear wing. The home has two stories encircled by 29 foot Ionic columns which span the building from top to bottom, with the downstairs floor being sixteen feet high and the upstairs floor being 13 feet high.

The home was completed on June 14th, 1856, and the home was six months overdue at the time, causing the builder to pay rent for the Pease family in a boardinghouse until its completion. At that time, the Legislature appropriated ,500 for furnishings, and since the amount was not enough to fully furnish the home, the Pease family used their own furnishings, which was a habit that persisted for the next few first families, since the home was large and quite expensive to provide with ample furnishings.

The next governor, Sam Houston, felt the house was too sparsely furnished, and ordered a massive four poster mahogany bed, which is still situated in the southeast bedroom to this day. Temple Houston, Sam and Margaret Houston's eighth child, was the first child born in the mansion, and at one point, their son, Andrew Jackson Houston, locked members of the Legislature in their chambers and refused to give his father the key. The child was five years old when this occurred, and the child reported only relinquished the key when his father, Governor Sam Houston, threatened to have him arrested.

In 1901, the home was redecorated in the late Victorian style by First Lady Orline Sayers, who brought in plush, overstuffed parlor chairs and numerous potted plants to receive the home's first presidential visitor, William McKinley, and his cabinet. Her husband, confederate veteran Joseph Sayers, met with President McKinley and his cabinet at an elegant state dinner in the dining room of the mansion.

By 1914, the home had fallen into disrepair, and was renovated by Governor Oscar Colquitt, and later, in 1960, the home was landscaped with formal gardens by First Lady Nellie Connally, and the formal gardens are still in use today. Later, in 1979, the home was completely restored by Governor William P. Clements and First Lady Rita Clements, after the Legislature appropriated ,000,000 for the project, and at the time, the mansion had been in use for over 120 years.

Today, there are important art collections and heirloom furniture on display, including a collection of portraits and Stephen F. Austin's writing desk, and the public may tour the mansion with a tour guide provided by the state. The Governor's Mansion in Austin is something for all residents of Austin as well as Texas to be proud of, so be sure and visit the mansion while in Austin!

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