This morning I attended an informal holiday reception with Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the governor’s mansion in downtown Austin. Arsonists struck the mansion on the morning of June 8, 2008, with a Molotov cocktail, nearly destroying the iconic structure that has been home to Texas governors since 1856. The crime has never been solved, though the evidence points at anarchists. The state Democratic Party was holding its statewide convention in Austin at the time of the blaze.
A little more than four years after the blaze that almost destroyed it, the mansion has been fully restored. Gov. Perry, First Lady Anita Perry, and their famous dog Rory moved back into the historic home earlier this year. Today’s event was intended partly to bring media from around Austin and the state in for a few minutes with the governor, and to showcase the mansion’s Christmas decorations.
I took a photo of the Christmas tree, which unlike some other governors the Texas governor is calling a Christmas tree, but it didn’t come out. So click here to see the Texas Christmas Tree.
This year, his first Christmas back in the mansion after several years, the governor’s home is decorated with a tribute to the U.S. armed forces. The four main rooms on the ground floor honor the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. Texas’ 72 Medal of Honor recipients are honored with stars along the bannister that leads to the family quarters upstairs.
Here, Gov. Perry stands below a portrait of Stephen F. Austin in the library, explaining the Army-themed decorations on the mantle and around the room.
Gov. Perry gave a few brief remarks from the staircase, telling stories about the mansion’s history. He pointed to a small indentation in the bannister and explained that Gov. Jim Hogg drove a 16-penny nail into that spot to keep his daughters (one of whom really was named Ima) from using the bannister to slide down from the second floor to the first. Wikipedia backs up the governor’s story. On the bannister upstairs, Perry said, Gov. Mark White’s sons carved their initials. The Hoggs and Whites served Texas about 90 years apart.