A June 8 fire heavily damaged the 150-year-old Texas Governor's Mansion.
AUSTIN – Last month an arsonist set fire to the historic mansion that has been home to governors of Texas for more than 150 years. Now the state's first lady will spearhead the fundraising efforts for the mansion's restoration.
Anita Perry, wife of Gov. Rick Perry, on July 15 announced the formation of the Texas Governor's Mansion Restoration Fund. She will chair the non-profit organization and Pam Willeford will serve as vice-chair.
"For more than 150 years, the Texas Governor's Mansion has stood as a vibrant example of the ambition and achievements that established our great state as a place of opportunity and prosperity for all," said Perry in a press release. "Though it was built as a house for governors, the mansion indeed belongs to all Texans. With Texans' help and support, this beautiful home will be restored and renewed to again reflect the pride and distinction of the Lone Star State."
The fire on June 8 caused substantial damage to the pre-Civil War home, and costs of the restoration are still being determined.
Funding for the restoration of the Governor's Mansion is expected to come from public/private partnerships. An application with the IRS is pending for approval of the Fund as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; once approved by the IRS, all donations will be tax deductible. The legislature could also appropriate additional funds for the restoration during the upcoming legislative session.
The Heritage Society of Austin was the first to donate to the Texas Governor's Mansion Restoration Fund, contributing $10,000, and several other organizations and individuals have also offered financial assistance.
On July 17, former Gov. Dolph Briscoe gave $100,000 to the drive and challenged former Gov. Bill Clements to meet or beat it with a donation of his own.
Willeford, former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, was a member of the State Preservation Board during the Texas Capitol Restoration project in the early 1990s and raised private funds for the historic interiors. That project, which lasted from 1992 to 1995, focused on restoring the State Capitol building to its turn-of-the-century appearance.
In addition to her role with the Texas Governor's Mansion Restoration Fund, Willeford is also president of Texas Exes and co-chair of the 2009 Texas Medal of Arts Awards.
"The damage caused by the fire to our wonderful and historic Governor's Mansion is, of course, a tragedy. But I am honored to do my part to restore this significant landmark because of its importance to the past, present and future of Texas and Texans," Willeford said.
The Governor's Mansion is a National Historic Landmark and has been the official home of every Texas governor since 1856.
To contribute to the restoration, visit www.texasonline.com, or send a check made out to:
"Texas Governor's Mansion Restoration Fund"
P.O. Box 12878
Austin, TX 78711-2878
For more information on the fund, call 1-866-751-5829.