Rehabilitate, don’t raze, governor’s mansion

Rehabilitate, don't raze, governor's mansion by Ann Bush The Governor�s Residence in Pierre is in peril. A task force recently established, the Governor�s Residence Committee, will decide soon whether to renovate the current structure or build a new one. As time passes quickly, it appears that the pendulum is swinging towards building a new home.

According to a May 9 �Request for Design Competition� from the South Dakota Office of the State Engineer, the new residence will be placed on the same site as the current, implying that the current residence will either be demolished or moved. Granted the residence that houses our First Family may not be fancy or elaborate, but it is very unique and special not only to South Dakota, but also to the nation.

Built in 1936 during the Depression, it is the only Governor�s Residence in the entire United States that was built as a WPA project.

Numerous myths and misconceptions concerning preserving historic buildings still exist today, causing most people to assume that making much needed repairs and changes to the Governor�s Residence would be too expensive. However, professional and experienced architects, contractors and financial economists from around the nation have proved that in most cases this is not true.

The South Dakota Historic Preservation Office has not been asked to present a report, comments or analysis on preserving the home, which greatly concerns us. In light of this, we ask Gov. Rounds to insure that rehabilitating this historic landmark is given equal time for consideration.

First, let me explain what rehabilitating the home means, as it is different than restoring a historic structure. Restoration is returning a building to a particular time and destroying any alterations that have been made since the period selected. A restoration project is normally more expensive than a rehabilitation project. An example is the restoration of the State Capitol.

Rehabilitation means to retain as much of the most important historically significant features of the original building but make it functional for a new use. The original intent of the Governor�s Residence was strictly as a home for the First Family and designed to give them privacy � it was not designed to hold large public functions.

Since the use of the Governor�s Residence appears to be changing to a facility that entertains the public, additions and alterations to the interior spaces of the home are necessary, resulting in a rehabilitation project.

The Governor�s Residence Committee states that rehabilitating the home will be more expensive that starting over with a new building, however we are not convinced. We agree that the electrical, plumbing and security systems are outdated and dangerous. All fixed assets need to be updated sooner or later.

Walls and ceilings may need to be ripped out to replace these systems, but since the interior spaces are not functional for the new public use, they need to be removed anyway. If additions to the home are necessary, there is plenty of room on the current lot to accommodate.

With the right architect and contractor, we believe alterations can be accomplished while preserving the building�s most significant historic features and at a reasonable cost.

All we ask for is equal time to present to the public a good, sound report � prepared by architects and contractors with historic rehabilitation experience � which presents the costs to rehabilitate and preserve the home on the same site. In Europe, buildings thousands of years old are still productively being used today.

Sadly, our Governor�s Residence was severely neglected for many years and now it is time to use deferred maintenance funds to update the utility and security systems, redesign the interior spaces and add an addition to insure our First Family lives in a safe and comfortable environment.

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