AUSTIN, Texas – Arson is suspected in a fire that swept through the historic Texas governor’s mansion early Sunday, leaving much of the 152-year-old building severely damaged, the state fire marshal said.
No one was believed to be inside when the fire started at the home, whose roof buckled because of the flames and the massive amount of water used to put them out. Officials said there is no evidence any direct threat was intended to Gov. Rick Perry, who is out of the country with his wife, Anita.
“We are heartbroken by the fire that has ravaged the Texas governor’s mansion,” Perry said in a statement. “It has not only been our home for the past eight years, but has stood as a symbol of Texas pride throughout its history. Though it can certainly be rebuilt, what Texas has lost today can never be replaced.”
All historic furnishings and heirlooms had been removed for a renovation project, but much of the wood in the Greek revival-style mansion was “completely irreplaceable” longleaf pine, said Robert Black, a Perry spokesman. Some interior ornamentation is beyond repair, he said.
Parts of the six 29-foot columns at the front of the home, a national historic landmark, and much of the front wall were charred black. In some places the original color of the brick could be seen where white paint had burned off.
“We have some evidence that indicates that we do have an intentionally set fire,” said state Fire Marshal Paul Maldonado. “So we believe that we may be looking at a criminal act here.”
About 100 firefighters responded when an alarm went off just before 2 a.m. The mansion has been unoccupied since the Perrys temporarily moved out last fall so the mansion could undergo the $10 million renovation. It was scheduled to be completed next year.