Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987 Page: 26
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The Governor's Reception Room is perhaps the most documented and photographed room in the
Capitol. Pieces of furniture have taken on legendary importance-the "Davy Crockett" table (center)
and the "perfect" mirror (background) allegedly from Paris. Notice the photographer reflected in the
mirror. (No date.)
covered to indicate that a more colorful
decoration was ever planned for the room.
While a few compromises have been
allowed to make the space functional for
the late twentieth century (most notably,
air conditioning), the overall effect will
be extremely close to that felt by late
nineteenth century visitors.
An important aspect of the restoration
work at the Capitol is the present method
used to fund the projects. Although our
staff operations are funded by the state,
all monies spent on restoration are raised
from contributions made by the private
sector-individual citizens and major
corporations alike. The $500,000 goddess
project was paid for solely with private
funds. The restoration of the Governor's
Public Reception Room has been made
possible thanks primarily to a $100,000
grant from the Austin Heritage Society.
The State Preservation Board's fundraising
affiliation, the Capitol Committee,
Inc., plans and coordinates the many
activities necessary to raise the millions
of dollars needed to correctly restore the
Capitol and its grounds. Despite the economic
problems Texas experienced in
1986, nearly $1.5 million was raised with
the help of the Architect's office staff, and
we hope the public's interest and support
will continue to grow as we approach the
centennial of the Capitol's completion.
The year 1986 also saw a concerted
effort to begin the restoration of the
House wing of the building. The results
of the recent restoration of the Senate
Chamber and lieutenant governor's area
made the House members understandably
anxious to have their spaces restored.
Plans were already underway to "spruce
up" the House Chamber. In particular,
the twelve-year-old, worn gold carpet was
to be replaced. House Speaker Gib Lewis
and Representative Mike Millsap, chairman
of the Committee on House Administration,
are both members of the State
Preservation Board (joining the governor,
lieutenant governor, Senator Roy
Blake, and citizen member Lowell Lebermann).
They wanted any work done to
be in line with our plans for the restoration
of the Capitol. Through a combination
of careful planning and accelerated
research, we were able to develop a 1986
interim restoration program for the House
Chamber area, which will be added to
and refined once the master plan for the
building's restoration is completed.
The major work included a new carpet,
wooden shutters, period-style draperies at
the Speaker's platform and at the sides of
the chamber, and antique furnishings in
the Members' Conference Room and the
Back Hall Reception Corridor.
The carpet was the first priority because
of the time involved in designing and
manufacturing a custom-woven Wilton
carpet. We were fortunate to have the
original written specifications for the
House Chamber carpet. Even more fortunate
was the discovery of a 1905 photograph
of Lyndon Johnson's father, Sam
Johnson, Jr., seated at his desk in the
chamber. It is quite rare to find such a
close-up view of historical carpeting. The
photograph allowed us to closely approximate
the design and scale of the 1905 carpet,
while the written records told us that
the original carpet was made up of five
colors, with red considered the predominant
Agreeing on the design was one thing.
Finding a firm qualified to make the carpet
was another. In the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries, woven carpets
were commonplace in the United States.
But by the 1950s tufted carpet, produced
by a faster production-line method, had
become the major product. Today, the
woven method is all but extinct in the
United States, although it is still fairly
common in Europe. Only a few U.S.
companies still have the looms or the
knowledge necessary to weave carpets,
and those that do concentrate on a particular
type, the Axminster. Since we
knew that the original House carpet was
woven on a Wilton loom, that type was
what we wanted to reproduce. Luckily, an
American firm, Bloomsburg Carpet Industries
of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania,
is equipped to accept a large-yardage
Wilton order. Bloomsburg is well known
for its restoration carpet projects, which
include the U.S. House of Representatives
Chamber, the U.S. Supreme Court, and
the California State Capitol legislative
The patterned carpet was not placed in
the gallery of the chamber because research
revealed that the original flooring
in the gallery was linoleum. At the end of
the nineteenth century, patterned linoleum
was considered a fairly new and innovative
way to cover a floor. Historical
photographs suggest that the linoleum
was often designed to simulate carpet.
Linoleum was not considered an appropriate
material to place in the highly
functional gallery space-the noise factor
alone ruled it out. However, we
did not want to place the patterned carpet
there because it would suggest that
originally the two levels of the chamber
had the same floor covering. Therefore,
we compromised with a solid burgundy
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987, periodical, Spring 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45438/m1/26/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.