Other Voices

Governor’s Mansion items fetch $51,500

The restored Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin
The restored Texas Governor’s Mansion in Austin AP

Gates and fencing formerly at the Texas Governor’s Mansion are getting new homes at a Galveston museum and an Austin man’s house and .

James P. Bryan, who bought three of the lots of items auctioned off Sunday at Austin Auction Gallery, said they'll be used at his Bryan Museum in Galveston, which houses Southwestern artifacts.

He bought the front gate, vehicle gate and 95 feet of fencing, all of which had been at the Governor’s Mansion until the 2008 fire there.

Austinite Keith Lossen, who’s in construction, bought the pedestrian gates from the mansion, which he will use at his Central Austin home.

Sunday’s auction action capped a minor controversy that cropped up when the State Preservation Board recently told me that the items never had been at the Capitol, which the private owners who put them up for auction had claimed. The board said the gates and fencing were replicas of similar items that had been at the Capitol.

Nevertheless, the items, in use at the mansion dating back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, still have historic significance for some folks, including Bryan and Lossen.

“We’ve got the story straight now, but these gates did protect a president and multiple governors so they’re historic in and of themselves,” auctioneer Chris Featherston said as he began the bidding on Sunday.

In the first minute, he said “$35,000” (the required starting bid and, it turned out, the only bid offered) 32 times before before Bryan submitted his winning bid by phone for the front gate, the first item sold Sunday.

Bryan was the only bidder for the items he bought for a total of $47,000. He said the gates and fencing will be used on an events facility next to the museum, which opened in June in an historic mansion originally known as the Galveston Orphans Home.

“Texas is a centerpiece of the settlement of the western United States in many ways, so to have these items from our Governor’s Mansion is a nice addition,” Bryan said Sunday.

Bryan made his money via his company Torch Energy Advisors. He also owns the historic Gage Hotel in Marathon.

Lossen paid $4,500 ($500 above the starting bid) for the pedestrian gates.

“I like history and I think it’s neat,” he said.

Former state Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, bought all of the materials, declared surplus by the Preservation Board, for $17,000 in December 2014. Until Sunday, he and Austin antique dealer Tatyana Anastasiyeva shared ownership of the items.

Your next shot at buying something of some historical value at Austin Auction Gallery comes Feb. 6 at what’s billed as the auction of “The Joanne Christian Collection,” which include “fine and costume jewelry, couture and designer purses.”

The late Christian was the always-well-dressed widow of former LBJ Press Secretary George Christian. Ms. Christian, who, among other things, was a founder of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, was a “lifelong collector of friends, paintings, jewelry, books and other beautiful things,” according to the auction house.

I’m guessing none of the friends are being auctioned off.

Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman. kherman@statesman.com