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(left) A photo from November showed stabilization efforts that protected the 1856 mansion from the elements as work crews began to prepare for its eventual restoration. (above) The fire caused heavy damage to the attic and roof.

State Awaits Funds for Governor’s Mansion a u s t i n Ten months after an arsonist set the Governor’s Mansion ablaze, devastating one of the state’s most cherished historic artifacts, officials were awaiting action by the Texas Legislature in mid-April on a request for $27 million to restore the historic residence. Last fall, workers finished erecting a protective canopy to protect the heavily damaged building as law enforcement continued searching for suspects. Meanwhile, private donations and pledges reached $3.2 million to restore the 1856 homestead. The fire broke out in the early morning hours on June 8, with a security camera capturing images of a lone male throwing an incendiary bomb at the front door. At press time, with the House and Senate divided over the State Preservation Board’s request for $27 million, officials were reconsidering that estimate to determine if the budget for the restoration project could be lowered. That

EPA Extols Houston, D/FW for Efficiency Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area are among the top five cities in the nation with the most buildings enrolled in the Energy Star program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal program promotes energy conservation and reduction of greenhouse gases by designing buildings to be more energy efficient. The EPA released its Top 25 list in March, which draws upon 2008 data from more than


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estimate includes funds to cover the restoration, along with $3 million to expand the grounds across an adjacent residential street and enlarge the parking area as well as $3.5 million for a security plan. “The restoration estimate was made in October when the economic climate was very different, and the State Preservation Board is now looking for a reasonable point where the state is comfortable with the amount and the Board has enough money to do the job,” said Dealey Herndon, project manager for the state agency. Herndon said the Board expects to receive funds no later than September, at which time the restoration would begin. During the interim period, she said, selective demolition to prepare for a restoration will continue. She added that the Board plans to issue a Request for Proposals sometime in the next two months to begin the process to select a preservation architect. Once an architect is hired, restoration could take up to two and a half years to complete.

Designed by master builder Abner Cook, the Greek-Revival-style mansion is located one block southwest of the State Capitol in downtown Austin. At the time of the fire, the mansion was undergoing a $10 million restoration. Its contents, including heirloom furniture and significant artworks, were in storage. Most of the damage caused by the flames was limited to the front of the house, the second floor, the attic, and the roof. The 29-foot-tall Ionic columns that grace the front porch were charred, and most of the interior’s original woodwork was scorched but intact. The initial months-long efforts to repair the building focused on securing the site, stabilizing the structure, and identifying salvageable materials so restoration could begin in early 2009. Along with the State Preservation Board, the Texas Facilities Commission, the Texas Historical Commission, and the Governor’s Office have been involved in the efforts.

3,300 commercial buildings and manufacturing plants that had earned the federal Energy Star label. According to the EPA, that number of facilities represent a savings of more than $1 billion in utility bills and more than seven million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. In sequential order, the cities leading the Top 25 were Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Washington, D.C., Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis-St Paul, Atlanta and Seattle.

 Two other Texas cities were included in the Top 25—Austin at #13 and San Antonio at #16.

According to the EPA, energy use in commercial buildings and manufacturing plants accounts for nearly half of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and nearly half of energy consumption nationwide. “Energy Star buildings typically use 35 percent less energy and emit 35 percent less greenhouse gases than average buildings,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “EPA commends all of these cities and all of the others, as well as countless individuals, who are now using more energy efficient appliances and dwellings.”

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Photos courtesy the Governor’s office

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Texas Architect May/June 2009: Art Venues