Message From Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott
As First Lady of Texas, I am honored to have the opportunity to reside in the Texas Governor’s Mansion and share its history with those it belongs to—the people of Texas.
Our Texas Governor's Mansion pre-dates the Texas Capitol and is the oldest, continuously occupied governor’s residence west of the Mississippi. The Greek Revival style home was designed by Austin architect Abner Cook and completed in 1856, ten years after the Republic of Texas became a state. It occupies a city block near the Capitol in Austin.
Gov. Elisha Pease was the first occupant of the mansion; Gov. James Hogg's children slid down the banister; Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth visited; Gov. Wilbert Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel hosted radio shows with his band at the mansion; Gov. John Connally recuperated from the gunshot he suffered while riding in the motorcade with President Kennedy; and then-Gov. George W. Bush awaited the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The Texas Governor's Mansion has been home to 41 governors since 1856, but it belongs to all Texans. The mansion is part of our state's proud legacy, and the site of these and countless other historic events.
In June 2008, the Governor’s Mansion suffered significant damage from arson. But Texans refused to let an arsonist write the last page of history on the Governor's Mansion. Thanks to generous donations from Texans from all walks of life, the foresight of our Legislature, and countless hours of hard work by dedicated preservationists, the historic home was not only restored, but much needed improvements were made to help the Governor's Mansion stand ready for the future.
Much like the Mansion itself, the grounds and gardens have a rich history of their own. Greg and I wanted to build upon this legacy with the addition of a greenhouse on the north lawn, which was completed in May 2023. The existence of a greenhouse has historic precedent at the Governor’s Mansion, as Ma Ferguson built one during her husband, Pa Ferguson’s, administration in 1915 in the location of the current Connally Garden. Beautifully reflecting the property’s history and complementing the Mansion’s charm, this new space maximizes the use of the otherwise underutilized north lawn and provides spectacular views of the Capitol right across the street. The greenhouse serves as the kitchen garden where we grow numerous flowers, fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs – including mint used for the famed Mansion Tea. Additionally, the greenhouse and surrounding areas provide a private outdoor space for First Families as well as an educational space for visitors.
Not only is the people's house now accessible to people with disabilities, but the new geoexchange system provides more energy efficient heating and cooling, which has the historic residence on its way to receiving a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and Austin Energy's Green Building rating.
The Texas Governor’s Mansion and its storied history – from its early days in the 1800s to its recent restoration – represents one more reason why Texans should be proud of our state’s rich heritage. Greg and I hope you enjoy this great piece of Texas history as much as we do.