AUSTIN — An emotional Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that early indications suggest that the burned-out hull of the Governor’s Mansion can be salvaged as part of a massive restoration project to the 152-year-old structure that has been home to the past 40 chief executives of Texas.
“At this particular point in time, and from the limited information we have, (it appears) that the house is going to be salvageable,” Perry said in his first public remarks since a four-alarm fire gutted the two-story Greek Revival home in the predawn hours of Sunday.
Perry returned late Tuesday from a trade mission to Europe and visited the mansion that evening and talked with state and federal investigators who have been combing the remains for clues they hope will lead to the arrest of who ever set the blaze. The governor declined Wednesday to divulge any of the inquiries details but promised a vigorous prosecution of any suspects.
“I cannot begin to understand what would motivate someone to do this,” he told reporters. “But I do know that they will be caught, and they will be prosecuted for what they have done.”
Speaking wistfully of his family living in the mansion for nearly eight years and recalling the spectacle of seeing the home lit up inside and out each Christmas, Perry said that efforts are already in place to begin raising private money to supplement any public funds that will be needed to restore the building.
“If most Texans are like me, and I think they are, they want to see that house rebuilt,” he said. “This is an irreplaceable Texas treasure.”
Perry said history demands the building be restored.
“For more than 150 years, this has been a home where children have slid down the banister, chased their pets, and grown to adulthood, a place where families have celebrated holidays and welcomed friends -- and it will be again,” he said. “For more than 150 years, the Texas Governor’s Mansion has been the home of good people, with grand ideas for a great state -- and it will be again.”
Perry and his family have been living in temporary quarters since October while the mansion was undergoing a $10 million renovation that had been schedule for completion next spring.
He was notified while in Europe that the house had caught fire, but when the call came the extent of the damage was unclear. Follow-up calls carried much grimmer news.
“The worse part was when the second round of phone calls came and the fire was not under control,” Perry said. “At that particular time, not knowing whether or not this structure was going to be burned to the ground, it was a very traumatic moment, particularly for the first lady as we were together.”
When he learned that investigators had determined the fire was deliberately set, Perry said, “it went from heartache to pretty damn mad.”