Hull’s Governor’s Mansion Report: An Argument for Preservation

This week we’re following William S. Hull’s Report on the Governor’s Mansion, prepared in 1909 to help the Legislature decide whether to repair/renovate the existing antebellum mansion or replace it with a new building. Hull argued for the renovation option and based his argument on the need for preserving historic and beautiful architecture, regardless of charges of excessive “sentiment.” In yesterday’s segment of the report, Hull made an urbanist argument for keeping the governor’s residence in its downtown location; today, he caps the whole report with a defense against those who said that preservation was nothing more than sentiment, arguing that in fact, most of the meaningful things we do in life and society are based on sentiment. He also gives the nod to the women of the state, who had come forward already to make a plea for preservation.

Off-topic note: My internet access is unexpectedly spotty this week, and I’m “borrowing” someone’s wireless right now, so don’t be offended if I don’t get back to comments right away. I should be back up and running by Friday at the latest.

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About a year ago one of the great publishing houses of New England which prints a journal of Architecture, broad enough to present in its pages, in type and lithograph, the building effort of the entire country, wrote to me soliciting my aid in collecting photographs of ante bellum homes and public buildings in this section of Mississippi.

It was a sincere purpose to display the artistic feeling of the people in the early stages of convention and of law. It unfortunately happened that I was compelled to reply that after General Sherman paid a visit to this section of Mississippi he left but two artistic building. One of these the old capitol, the other the Governor’s mansion. The homes were no more, the plantations destroyed.

In all history the Vandal has left the marking stones. So it was with Sherman. He would destroy a resistance to his force, but he would leave a rallying point for another era.

Will Mississippi destroy that which Sherman would not burn?

An effort to cloud the value to the State of the mansion is the charge that its preservation is a foolish sentiment and not up to date. All acts of life are based on sentiment. It is only a matter of degree, it may be a large sentiment or it may be a small sentiment. Every appropriation is based on sentiment. The taxpayers could be relieved if the education of the youth was canceled and the unfortunate in the various State institutions given a lethal portion. The scheme of destruction is devoid of all practical ideas and belongs to the philosophy of him who consumes his substance day by day. Inconstant, frivolous, opportune. The land marks of social history have been as sacred as the cradle of Moses and only less sacred than the cross of Christ.

It is a matter of great importance that the women of the State have come forward with their appeals to preserve these buildings. “First at the cross and last at the sepulchre.” It was the virgins who kept the Vestas fires aflame. Unending vigils that kept the heart of Rome brave and strong. Sentimental if you please, but sentiment is the only practical thing that ever did exist. It is the coherer that attracts. It means union of purpose, confidence in each other, aspiration, religious faith and the love of home and country.

A summary of the estimate is:

For grading, paving, planting and removing . . . . .$5,624.25

Restoring and improving old building . . . . . . . . . . $6,250.00

Building a new annex . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .$18,310.00

Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $30,184.25

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This is the third in a four-part series. Read the rest?

1.From the Archives: W.S. Hull’s Report on the Governor’s Mansion
2. Original Downtown Booster
4. What They Did in 1909

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Categories: Architectural Research, Cool Old Places, Historic Preservation, Jackson

3 replies

  1. “Will Mississippi destroy what Sherman would not burn?” What a gem! Very interesting improvements Hull made…removing fences and making the residence accessible. Great guy.

    Like

    • That line stuck out in my mind as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if “the women of the State” whom he refers to had the same or a very similar rally cry in their efforts to promote preservation of the building.

      Like

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  1. Governor’s Mansion Under Renovation (103 years ago) « Preservation in Mississippi

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