Gov. James S. Gilmore III and his family are preparing to move back into the Executive Mansion on historic Capitol Square this weekend after a $7.2 million renovation.
Crews worked on everything from the rotting brick foundation to the attic, now full of dozens of new wires, ventilation pipes and plumbing for the mansion built in 1813. They reinforced floors, returned paint to its historic colors and installed rugs and draperies that resemble the originals.
"We've spent a lot of effort trying to be true to the historic fabric in the building," first lady Roxane Gilmore said today as she gave a tour to journalists, who had to wear booties to protect the newly waxed floors from damage.
But the renovation was as much about preparing the mansion for the next century. Sprinklers and smoke alarms were added, as well as new electrical systems, cable hookups and phone lines capable of handling high-speed Internet traffic. Speakers and fluorescent bulbs were recessed into ceilings and arches. Gas fireplaces replaced the old wood-burning ones.
The entire building is now accessible to the disabled, complete with a full-sized elevator, making it easier for Lt. Gov. John H. Hager, who uses a wheelchair, and others with disabilities to visit the mansion. The governor's bathroom upstairs has a shower with a bench and a wide door that a wheelchair could fit through. It also has marble floors and brass fixtures.
The Gilmores, including 16-year-old Jay, 12-year-old Ashton and their dog, Sparky, have lived in a three-story, Tudor-style home in Richmond's West End since April to allow workers to do structural work on the mansion.
Today, Roxane Gilmore, a professor of classics at Randolph-Macon College, said the move was disruptive but worth the trouble.
"We're very proud that we've been able to take a historic home and yet bring it into the 21st century with high technology," she said.
As part of the renovation, workers built a 900-square-foot addition to make room for the elevator and a new bathroom. That brings the usable space in the mansion to 13,500 square feet, including a basement that houses the governor's security detail and a full-size catering kitchen with all new gas stoves, stainless steel counters and a commercial dishwasher.
Television home-repairman Bob Vila has been filming the renovations for shows scheduled to air beginning this winter.
In addition to the $7.2 million in state money spent on the renovation, a private foundation has raised $200,000 in gifts from donors, said Administration Secretary G. Bryan Slater. The money will be used mainly on furnishings to improve the historic character of the mansion's interior.
The Executive Mansion will be available for visits from the public during an open house on New Year's Day.
CAPTION: Sydney Jordan-Colley puts finishing touches on molding for the gatehouse of the Executive Mansion. The $7.2 million project restored historic accuracy yet made the building more modern.