Center for Louisiana Studies moves to more noticable location

The Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, now tucked away in the school’s library, is hoping to move to the historic J. Arthur Roy House to establish a better presence and attract more visitors.

“My predecessors referred to us as the best-kept secret on campus, but now we don’t want to be a secret anymore,” said Michael Martin, director of the center.

The Center for Louisiana Studies oversees the UL Press, maintains an archive that includes Cajun and Creole folklore materials and early colonial records, and is involved in a wide range of community outreach efforts that work to better connect local residents with the university’s historical and cultural research.

In its current location on the third floor of Edith Garland Dupré Library, he said, the center suffers from two problems: a lack of visibility and lack of accessibility.

The library does not include any signs outside to direct visitors to the center, and it only has one parking spot allotted for visitors in a lot nearby.

Martin began looking for a new place to house the Center for Louisiana Studies about two years ago. He was able to secure the J. Arthur Roy House, at 1204 Johnston St., around the same time the university’s Master Plan was unveiled.

“The Roy House is very prominent,” Martin said. “People say, ‘Oh, I know that house.’ ”

The two-story, 4,500-square-foot house, built in 1901, is the only UL-Lafayette property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The home belonged to J. Arthur Roy, a Lafayette landowner and businessman who served on the then-Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute Board of Trustees and executive committee.

The university acquired the Roy House in 1986.

Although it’s an ideal location for the Center for Louisiana Studies, Martin said, the house needs major renovations before the move can take place.

“It’s in horrendous shape,” he said.

Renovation plans include interior updates, a heating and cooling system, structural and plumbing repairs and a new coat of paint.

The estimate for the work is at about $500,000 and the center will need to raise that money from donations or other sources, Martin said.

“Right now, we’re just spreading the word, creating promotional materials, hoping to do events,” he said. “We’re trying to generate community awareness about it.”

When renovations are finished and the Center for Louisiana Studies moves in, the Roy House will feature a store on the first floor, where visitors can purchase books through the UL Press.

The rest of the first floor will include a UL Press office, an administrative office and various storage areas.

The second floor will house offices for center personnel.

As of now, there is no set date for when the renovations will be complete.

Donations can be made to the Roy House account on the UL-Lafayette Foundation’s website, www.ullafayettefoundation .org.