Perhaps the finest Greek Revival residence in the state, the Governor's Mansion is situated on a knoll just southwest of the capitol, surrounded by shaded lawns and iron fencing. The six colossal Ionic columns elegantly state the importance of the residence that has served as the home to every Texas governor since its construction. The three-man selection committee, composed of Cook's recent clients, engaged his foreman Richard Payne to draft floor plans, elevations, and a site plan. Cook built the house using brick (painted white since 1883) from his Austin clay pit and wood from his Bastrop sawmill. The design built upon Cook's maturing use of the Greek orders, especially as developed in James B. Shaw's house ( AU62). Details in this and other houses by Cook were derived from Minard Lafever's The Beauties of Modern Architecture (1835), a pattern book for “modern” Greek Revival.
The central-hall plan has four rooms on each floor. A porch on the west rear side that connected to a kitchen was replaced by a wing in 1914 containing a new kitchen, dining room, and upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms. A restoration in 1982 was completed with a fine collection of nineteenth-century American furnishings, including Stephen F. Austin's writing desk.
An arsonist torched the building in June 2008, causing serious fire damage to the porch and front rooms, and water damage throughout. Fortunately, the furnishings and collections had previously been removed for a mechanical rehabilitation project. A restoration in 2011 of the exterior and interior building fabric was funded by $20 million from the Texas legislature and nearly $10 million from donations.