A public fundraising effort is underway to restore a historic building at the edge of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus.

Although construction began Feb. 4 to save the structural integrity of the J. Arthur Roy House, more money is needed to transform the building at the corner of Johnston Street and University Avenue into a public archival space for south Louisiana.

“We still have a long way to go to make it a reality,” said Josh Caffery, director of the Center for Louisiana Studies. “We’re just doing the major structural and foundational work to keep it from getting any worse.”

About $300,000 has been raised of the $800,000 goal for the project.

Fundraising efforts have been underway for about five years, but the focus is shifting from large private donations to small community ones with a new motto: Restore the Roy.

Renovating the building would make the Center for Louisiana Studies — which researches, publicizes and promotes the state’s culture and history — more accessible to the public.

The center is currently located on the third floor of the Edith Garland Dupré Library on the UL campus.

If all goes as planned, the Center for Louisiana Studies could be in its new home within two years.

The project will include extensive restoration work to preserve integrity of the house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, before the space can be transformed into a home for the center.

“I take this work personally,” said Geoffrey Thompson, who is leading the renovation of the Roy. “I’m driven to do this the right way by thinking about how the house was constructed and going from there.”

The Roy, built in 1901, was one of the first buildings in Lafayette to have electricity and indoor plumbing.

It was a private home for a few generations before the university acquired it about 40 years ago.

The Roy was home to faculty offices, graduate students, the university’s debate team and a fraternity. It is currently being used by the Louisiana Tumor Registry.

“Some people said that chimpanzees were kept in that house, but that’s not true,” Caffery said. “Although they were kept in another house down the road not too far from the Roy.”

Caffery hopes the public fundraising campaign will inspire people to preserve the home and expand the reach of the Center for Louisiana Studies, which dates back to 1973.

Blueprints for the Roy project include a reading room where people could access the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore, a bookstore where people could purchase Louisiana books published by the UL Press, and a garden patio where events could be held.

The two-story home is treasured for its double polygonal bay windows and double porches on the exterior and its ornate woodwork and fireplaces on the interior.

“My goal is to make it look like nothing happened to the Roy,” Thompson said. “You don’t want to see a before and after and think it’s different. The end goal is for everything to look original.”

Learn more about Restore the Roy or make a donation at ullafayettefoundation.org/restoretheroy.


Follow Megan Wyatt on Twitter, @MeganWyattACA.