Virginia’s former First Lady, Roxane Gatling Gilmore, has written a new book titled “Restoring the Virginia Governor’s House”, about preserving a historic home for a new century. This home has the distinction of being the oldest continuously occupied executive mansion in the nation.
When she and her husband, Governor Jim Gilmore, were first moving into the Governor’s mansion in 1999, they were immediately asked to vacate for six months so restoration of the historic home could begin. She was happy to oblige since the elevator flooded with water every time it rained and the radiators leaked all over the wood floors and ruined priceless rugs.
The restoration was carried out under the leadership of Mrs. Gilmore, who had a hand in the selection of the Oversight Committee, the architects, designers, artisans and craftsmen, all the way to the finished project. The house was originally designed by Alexander Parris and extensively altered by Duncan Lee in the last century. The house had to be made both comfortable for the families in residence as well as the public. One of the needs addressed was to make the house and grounds handicap accessible. Overall, the total cost of the restoration of the house, outbuildings and grounds was $7 million and it was brought in on time and under budget.
Along the way, bits of Virginia’s past was discovered. Mrs. Gilmore found a 1914 electrician’s note behind one wall. The team also found previously unknown construction features and decorative ornamentation, not seen in 200 years. Excavation of the front yard found a tea pot from the Royal Palace in England. Interior walls showed the ghost of a fireplace and an old staircase.
Mrs. Gilmore started documenting all the restoration work so she could tell the mansion tour guides what to say. She followed the standards of preservation and used contractors who adhered to those standards. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources actively participate in the venture. She created a daily record of the work, with copious notes and photographs documenting everything, which eventually led to her writing the book.
Mrs. Gilmore will be traveling the state with her book signings, or you can visit www.virginiagovernorshouse.com to purchase the book online.