January 31, 2012 2:16:00 PM
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON -- The 170-year-old Mississippi Governor's Mansion is undergoing $425,000 in renovations before the new occupants can move in.
Work started Jan. 16 and should be finished by mid-April, according to the state Department of Finance and Administration.
Until then, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and his wife, Deborah, are living in their own home in Rankin County outside Jackson. Bryant took office Jan. 10
The mansion is closed to public tours until April 3.
Work includes mechanical modifications to the heating and air conditioning system and cleaning and recoating of duct work.
The outside of the mansion is being repainted, as is the metal fence surrounding it. Gazebos outside are getting new roofs.
In response to questions from The Associated Press, DFA spokeswoman Kym Wiggins said Monday that the current renovations do not include removal of a wet bar that Bryant's predecessor, Republican Haley Barbour, added in the residential portion of the home.
"Records indicate that in 2005, a small alcove in the one of the two laundry areas was retrofitted to accommodate a beverage station," Wiggins said in an email. "The station was paid for with private funds. It does not compromise the historic integrity of the building. The current Mansion renovation project does not include any plans to remove it."
The state spent about $50,000 to build the Greek Revival-style mansion starting in 1839, and Governor Tilghman Tucker and his family moved into the home in January 1842.
The state Department of Archives and History says it's the second-oldest continuously occupied governor's residence in the nation. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975.
The mansion survived the burning of most of Jackson by Union troops during the Civil War.
Gen. William T. Sherman used the mansion briefly as a command post, according to a book by historian David Sansing and Carroll Waller, wife of former Gov. Bill Waller.
A newer residential wing, at the back, was added during renovations in 1908 and 1909.
In 1971, inspectors declared the mansion unsafe, and Democratic Gov. John Bell Williams and his family moved out.
The mansion underwent extensive renovations again from 1972 to 1975, during most of Waller's term as governor. It had been in such bad shape at the time that some people wanted to raze it and use the prime downtown Jackson location for commercial development, said Sansing, who's now retired.
"Whenever you pass the Governor's Mansion, remember that without Bill Waller and his lovely wife, Carroll, there might be a hotel on that historic site," Sansing said at Bill Waller's funeral this past December.
The mansion periodically undergoes some type of upkeep, from painting to mechanical work.
In late 2009, the state spent $49,675 for a private contracting crew to repaint the four front columns and to do other maintenance work on the porch.
In recent years, the state has set aside money from the sale of NASCAR specialty car tags to help pay for upkeep of the Governor's Mansion. People pay an extra $35 for the NASCAR tags.
Wiggins said the state started planning for the current renovations in 2005, and the work is being funded by a combination of bond money and money from the NASCAR tags.