Arson blamed for fire at Governor's Mansion

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 11, 2008, 8:46am

Austin's pre-dawn sky was lit by the fire blazing at the Texas Governor's Mansion on June 8.

Authorities believe the fire that heavily damaged the Texas Governor's Mansion in Austin last Sunday was the work of an arsonist.

The Houston Chronicle reported June 11 that a security video shows a shadowy figure hurling an object at the front door followed by an immediate burst of flames.

About 100 firefighters battled the fire for several hours after it was discovered by passers-by about 1:45 a.m. Sunday, June 8. Built in 1856, the Greek Revival-style home was the oldest gubernatorial residence in continuous use west of the Mississippi. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

No one was injured in the four-alarm fire, and all of the home's antiques and relics were in storage while the mansion underwent extensive renovations. Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, have been living in an Austin-area rental home since October.

"I have seen many things in my time as governor, but few sights have left a deeper impression on me than the charred remains of this genuine Texas treasure standing behind me," Gov. Perry said at a press conference. "As I consider what was done to this once-majestic home, my heart aches beyond words."

Perry, who was in Europe on a trade mission when the mansion burned, said he wants to see it rebuilt and that his wife, Anita, will likely have an active role in raising money for that effort.

The fire caused heavy damage to the second floor, ceilings, walls and the grand staircase.

Texas' fifth Governor, Elisha Marshall Pease, his wife, Lucadia, and their daughters became the Mansion's first residents. The massive mahogany four-poster bed located in the southeast bedroom belonged to Sam Houston.

"As a Texan, I am angry that a part of my state's heritage has been attacked," Perry said "I cannot begin to understand what would motivate someone to do this, but I do know that they will be caught, and they will be prosecuted for what they have done."

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