New Legislation Protects Governor’s Mansion

The Alabama and Montgomery especially historic preservation and museum community scored a huge accomplishment in the 2011 Legislative session with House Bill 437. The First Lady Dianne Bentley Governor’s Mansion Preservation Act was introduced by Rep. Jeremy Oden of Eva and Mrs. Bentley’s support was instrumental in the passage of the bill, working closely with the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion to see this long time effort come to pass. Various organizations including the Garden District Preservation Association have long been concerned about continuity of care and design integrity of the Mansion as well as the lack of family-friendly living quarters for Alabama’s first families.

Sabel Mansion on Perry Street served as the Governor’s Mansion from 1911 until 1951.

The Governor’s Mansion Preservation Act will create the Governor’s Mansion Authority as a state agency with exclusive control over the Governor’s Mansion complex. The Authority is composed of various members of historical and preservation organizations from around the state. This Authority is tasked with preserving, operating and maintaining the Governor’s Mansion Complex, which includes the Governor’s Mansion itself (also known as the Ligon House), but also the John Blue Hill House located adjacent on South Perry Street in the Garden District. The legislation will protect the historical and architectural integrity of the complex and its structures — exterior, interior, contents and grounds. The Mansion will provide housing for the Governor and the Governor’s family in comfortable, private and physically secured quarters and will also create an appropriate setting for the official and ceremonial functions of the State of Alabama. Any changes to the exterior, interior and content of the Governor’s Mansion and the adjacent Hill House will require prior approval of this Authority and will also adhere to the local historic preservation ordinance of the City of Montgomery on any exterior alterations. The private living quarters of the Governor and the First Family are exempted from this requirement for interior changes to the contents and any nonstructural decorative changes.

First Lady Dianne Bentley, along with the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion, has begun the planning process to ensure that the vision for the Governor’s Mansion becomes a reality. A furnishings committee composed of museum, preservation, and design professionals from around the state have been meeting to create a plan for consideration by the Authority for collecting, preserving and interpreting Governor’s Mansion, presenting the rich heritage of the state of Alabama through the Mansion and its occupants. This initial research includes compiling an archive for the Mansion complex itself for future administrations.

Governor’s Mansion today.

A significant study, including exterior and interior analysis, was done on the Mansion in 1987. In 1911, the Sabel Mansion on South Perry Street was purchased to house Alabama’s first families. By 1951, a larger structure was needed, and the Ligon House, built in 1907 on South Perry Street, was purchased and remains the handsome neo-classical home for the first family today.

Early postcard show Ligon House with the Hill House adjacent, all now part of the Governor’s Mansion complex.

The Governor’s Mansion is bustling with loads of activity these days. Mrs. Bentley and the Mansion staff have their hands full with daily activities and tours, as the Mansion is now open on a regular basis. Upcoming fundraising events are scheduled all over Alabama to secure funds for the preservation of the Mansion, so watch local calendars for a fun time in our area!

As local businesswoman, Garden District resident, and long time Friends of the Governor’s Mansion board member Sandra Nickel commented,

The new legislation puts responsibility for the Mansion, its function and care, squarely where it belongs — in the hands of the people of Alabama, with the Mansion Authority acting as their collective caretaker. As a result, one of Montgomery’s most diverse neighborhoods retains a critical anchor and the Mansion itself can now be kept at a standard befitting both its function as the Governor’s residence and an important historical structure.

Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!

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  1. A big hat’s off to all who worked so hard, and especially to Mickie Perry and Dottye Hannan, Garden District residents who have carried the water on this issue for years and years and years.

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