Hull’s Governor’s Mansion Report: What They Did in 1909

photo (1936) courtesy of Historic American Building Survey (HABS)

After William S. Hull made his case for preserving and renovating the building in the first few pages of his 1909 report on the Governor’s Mansion, he went into detail about how to carry out his vision, including the landscaping, the renovation of the antebellum portion of the building, the demolition of the early rear wing, and the construction of a new rear wing.

In addition to the ensuing alterations based on Hull’s plans, the building we see today has undergone further changes, as outlined in the HABS documentation of 1982, which summarizes the “Major Alterations and Additions”:

  • 1858–changes of cornices and medallions when gas was added, new marble mantels on lower floor
  • 1908-09–major rear addition, original stair removed, crumbling face brick of exterior replaced with yellow pressed brick, painted white in 1940s.
  • 1972-75–rear addition replaced with larger steel frame structure; stairway rebuilt; altered cornices, medallions, and mantels replaced; new heating and air-conditioning systems; new electricity

I guess there probably aren’t any color photos of the Mansion in its yellow brick phase–the 1936 picture above is too black and white to give the full effect.

The Governor’s Mansion website gives a good full account of the history of the mansion, and doesn’t mention the change in the cornices or medallions in 1858–I’ve never heard this story about the cornices being changed so early, and I think if it were true, the official website would mention it. Of the 1909 renovation, the Mansion site relates:

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Mansion fell into a state of disrepair, and by 1900 many people were calling for its demolition. In 1908, Governor Edmund Noel refused to move his family there and lived instead at the Edwards House, a hotel a few blocks away from the Mansion. The cause to save the Mansion was taken up by patriotic ladies’ organizations, who persuaded the legislature to allocate $30,000.00 for a renovation, directed by local architect William S. Hull.

That’s a good paragraph, because it highlights the seriousness of the threat to the Governor’s Mansion and also gives credit to the ladies’ organizations for spearheading the preservation effort.

Today we finish out this week’s series with segments from Hull’s “Preliminary Specifications for Renovating the Old Building” that forms a good part of the last section of Hull’s report. I don’t usually find specifications interesting to be honest, but these are written with the legislative reader in mind, so aren’t tedious at all. They do make me cringe in places, but Hull’s principled argument for preservation in yesterday’s segment (“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.”) overcomes a multitude of window and door replacements I guess. Besides, maybe they were rotten or something . . .

The Historic American Building Survey took four photos of the Governor’s Mansion in 1936, and these give us a sense of how W.S. Hull left the house when he was done with it. I’ve sprinkled these photos throughout the post.

This little series has given me a fresh appreciation for the Mansion and for all that has gone into keeping it there on its downtown block for us all to enjoy.

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Stone. All of the stone upon the outside of the building will be removed and oolitic limestone of the best quality substituted. This includes window and door sills, belt course, portico and step coping and column plynths. The iron steps to the front will be removed and granite steps substituted for the same.

Portico Floor. The slate tile upon the portico floor will be removed and marble terrazza tile substituted.

Brick Work. One pier 22 inches square with 30-inch square concrete base will be erected in each of the large rooms of the basement and 8″ x 10″ heart pine sills will rest upon them and upon the walls for the purpose of stiffening the floor beams. Where window arches throughout and door arches in basement are cracked they will be taken out, iron lintels inserted and new brick arches placed. The wood parapet wall around the roof will be taken down and a 9″ brick parapet built, covered with cement stucco all around and stained same color as brick.

Tin. The tin for the deck and cover of lantern will be removed and new tin substituted. All tin requiring repairs will be properly repaired.

Window Frames. All window frames and sash in the building, including the basement frames, will be removed and new ones of hard wood substituted according to details.

Doors and Frames. All doors and frames throughout the building will be taken out and new ones of hard wood substituted.

Floors. The floors of first story will be stiffened with transversed beams in basement as described. Those in second story will be stiffened by trussing the joists where required. All floors will be made double with a deadening vermin proof felt laid between the two. This will be accomplished by laying a new floor over the old one. The new floor for the first story will be of hard wood and for the second story will be of quarter sawed, narrow yellow pine.

Stairs. The old stairs in the main hall will be removed and the well hole filled in.

Interior Finish. The interior wood finish will all be taken off and replaced with hard wood as per detail.

Mantles and Tile. The mantles for the first story will remain, those for the second story removed and new ones substituted as per design. All hearths and chimney breast will be of tile.

Plaster. All plaster and mouldings will be repaired. All paper to be removed from the walls and the walls put in condition to receive color tints. All walls to be tinted according to a color scheme to be selected.

Painting. All interior finish to be filled and then run in varnish or flat as may be selected, exposing the natural grain. All other exposed wood work inside and outside 3 coats best lead and oil. The brick wall 2 coats, color to correspond with the press brick of the new. [so was the exterior painted yellow to match the rear addition, or was the new brick all matching because the front was re-faced at the same time as the construction of the rear?]

Bath Room. The Bath room will have tile floor, marble wainscoting and porcelain tub, closet and lavatory, also shower. All plumbing and wiring required will be provided.

Rods. The rods 3-4″ diameter with nuts and washers will be run through the floor joists to the lantern to pull in line the joists which support the studs.

Closed Windows. The four windows in the rear which come in contact with the brick walls of the new building will be closed with brick and finished as the other work.

The entire building to be put in complete order.

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This post is the fourth in a four-part series. Check out the previous posts?

  1. From the Archives: W.S. Hull’s Report on the Governor’s Mansion
  2. Original Downtown Booster
  3. An Argument for Preservation

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

4 replies

  1. Its interesting the ladies’ organizations initiated the preservation push for the Governor’s Mansion. The lecture at the Old Capitol earlier this week and exhibit opening was on the same topic of women leaders in preservation. The lecture was by Dot Ward on Mrs. Roane Fleming Byrne’s efforts to mark and pave the Natchez Trace in the 30s. Miss Charlie Compton of Natchez utilized her associations, the Womens’ Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution to stir things up when Mayor Whittington put forth his ‘progressive’ plans to demolish the City Hall in 1924. Compton and her friends were unsuccessful though they did make history in organizing the first Mississippi preservation campaign. The “Natchez Democrat” was busy promoting Mayor Whittington’s local plans for the ferry and new halls and global news. The editors did give Miss Compton a couple of news plays just to be fair.

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  2. I really wanted to go to that talk–even put it on the MissPres calendar–but then I was out of town. Oh well, glad you got to go, and I hope they had a good crowd? With no disrespect to the current beautiful City Hall in Natchez, one of the buildings I so wish were still around to enjoy is the old 1830s City Hall and Market–what a great piece of history that would have been if the ladies had been successful.

    On the other hand, based on the Governor’s Mansion saga we’ve been reading these last few days, maybe the “first Mississippi preservation campaign” was the Governor’s Mansion back in 1908-09.

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  3. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen a photograph of the Governor’s Mansion with its pressed brick facade- perhaps it was in a book or pamphlet about the Governor’s Mansion itself. I’m really enjoying this series!

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Trackbacks

  1. HABS Photographer Jack Boucher (1931-2012) « Preservation in Mississippi

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