The Governor's Mansion
When the Pease family moved into the Mansion in 1856, construction was not yet completed. Governor Pease quickly turned his attention to the yard and a garden for the family food supply. His wife, Lucadia, planted seeds and cuttings from her native state (Connecticut), later adding seeds which she ordered through the mail or received from friends.
The first gardener for the Governor's Mansion, William Davenport, was hired in 1870 by First Lady Anne Elizabeth Davis to undertake an extensive landscaping project. Mrs. Davis ordered a variety of seed and plants from Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York that included petunias, narcissus, hyacinths, tea roses and hollyhocks. During the Davis administration, flowerbeds and a vegetable garden were planted in the backyard and the front lawn was decorated with wooden benches, cast-iron urns, gravel paths, small fountains and a gazebo.
From 1891 to 1895, Governor Hogg was involved with his vegetable garden and his small orchard of fruit trees while Mrs. Hogg was working in her flower garden. At the turn of the century, Orline Sayers, wife of Governor Sayers, decided to simplify the grounds by removing the fountains and reorganizing the garden areas. Mildred Moody turned the vegetable garden on the north side of the house into a lovely flower garden that included stone seats and a trellised arbor hedged with ligustrum. The iron railed front steps were also added during Moody's term.
James V. Allred and his family were supplied with a year-round cornucopia of vegetables during his term as governor from 1939 to 1941. During Coke R. Stevenson's administration from 1941 to 1947, colorful azaleas and camellias replaced the standard Mansion shrubs while beds of iris and tulips dotted the grounds. During the Connally administration, the porte cochere was extended, a brick walk and solid brick fence were added, and an iron fence which had once surrounded the Capitol was rescued from storage and installed at the front entrance.
During Bill Clements' first administration from 1979 to 1983, funds were appropriated for improvements at the Mansion, including the construction on the south lawn of a gazebo to resemble one near the same site in an 1870s photograph.
During the James E. Ferguson administration from 1915 to 1917, a greenhouse was added to the southwest corner of the grounds. A long vine-covered arbor connected it with the mansion and Miriam Ferguson's name and the date were set in cement near the entrance. When Mrs. Ferguson later returned to the Governor's Mansion in 1933 to serve as governor, she was shocked to discover that her name had been removed from the greenhouse entrance and moved quickly to have it replaced.
Myrtle Neff, wife of Governor Pat Neff, standing in front of the greenhouse on the grounds of the Governor's Mansion. She kept the mansion filled with the sweet aroma of fresh flowers from the greenhouse during her stay at the Governor's Mansion from 1921-1925. Mrs. Neff also provided a floral arrangement for the Sunday services at the Baptist church that she and the Governor attended.
In 1968, Nellie Connally, First Lady to Governor John B. Connally, helped transform the two-acre tract into a beautiful arrangement of flower beds and flowering shrubs and trees, forming large and small formal garden areas. This landscaping project--which was met with the enthusiastic support of the garden clubs of Texas--added terraces, patios, walks and colonnades, returning the Greek Revival structure to a setting befitting its elegance.
Covering more than three acres, the grounds of the Capitol have long provided a quiet respite for both young and old. More than 500 trees--pecan, sycamore, cottonwood, mesquite, hackberry and oak--shade the benches and the grounds. It was Governor James Stephen Hogg who stated, "I want no monument of stone or marble, but plant at my head a pecan tree and at my feet an old fashioned walnut. And when these trees shall bear, let the pecans and walnuts be given out among the Plain people of Texas so they may plant them." Swayed by his emotional request, the Texas Legislature adopted the Pecan as the official state tree in June 1919.
Keeping the grounds of the state Capitol well groomed requires the efforts of a team of gardeners working over 30,000 staff hours annually. This team of workers is responsible for the planting of hardy annuals, perennials and beds of roses, the trimming of the gently grading lawns, and the careful shaping of the shrubs.