Joshua C. Caffery has two visions for the J. Arthur Roy House: one toward the past, with a planned $800,000 renovation of the 1901 residence; the other toward the future, and moving the Center for Louisiana Studies into the 5,000-square-foot building at the northwest corner of Johnston Street and University Avenue.
Caffery, director of the Center for Louisiana Studies, said the Roy House would present a host of advantages for the center, which is dedicated to researching, publicizing, promoting and preserving Louisiana culture and history. The center has three divisions: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, the Research Division and the Programming and Special Projects Division. That includes the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore, which the campus says is the “largest collection of audiovisual materials related to the traditional cultures of southwestern Louisiana.”
These days, the center is tucked away on the third floor of the Edith Garland Dupre Library on campus, which is neither visible to the public nor easily accessible. Moving to the Roy House, 1204 Johnston St., would change that, moving the center to one of Lafayette’s busiest intersections. If the city of Lafayette follows through with plans to enhance University Boulevard as a gateway to the campus, the renovated Roy House would be the first building visitors and passersby would see.
“Before my time, there was discussion about what to do with the Center for Louisiana Studies, how to grow it. One thing that was ID’d was the potential of this new location and how it could raise the visibility of the center,” Caffery said. “The decision was this would be a great place to showcase the center.”
It’s also an historic structure, the sole building on campus that is on the National Register of Historic Places, an appropriate site for a center that publishes the academic journal Louisiana History and books about Louisiana history and culture.
The deal was the center would have to raise funds to fix the 5,000-square-foot home, which has been in UL Lafayette hands since the 1990s. It has some private agency tenants now. Caffery said initial work has been done to bolster the house, which is built on brown brick around the perimeter, red brick underneath, and addressing other pressing structural needs.
The interior, though, is largely untouched since the university purchased it. Wood flooring, wallpaper, light fixtures and interior walls are largely the same from the home’s construction in 1900-1901. Indoor plumbing was added in 1908. The interior stairwell, some 20 steps and two landings, leads to a second floor that would include a conference room and offices.
“The architectural features are intact,” Caffery said. “It’s never had a modern renovation.”
The center is raising funds through its “Restore the Roy” campaign, which gained a new initiative this month: a challenge grant of up to $125,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, contingent upon UL Lafayette generating up to $375,000 more through other means.
“It’s called a challenge grant for a reason,” Caffery said in a campus statement. “We’re being challenged and we’re asking the public and our friends to help us meet that challenge.”
The home has historic and architectural value. J. Arthur Roy, born in 1837, was a businessman and farmer who was president of the Lafayette Parish School Board, president of the First National Bank, a charter member of the Lafayette Council Knights of Columbus and an early member of the Board of Trustees of the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute — the first version of UL Lafayette. He and his wife, Cornelia, daughter of former Lafayette Mayor William B. Bailey, had eight children, including J. Maxime Roy, mayor from 1936-44.
The Historic American Buildings Survey said the Roy home was built at the same time as the first buildings of SLII, and the family occupied the home in the same year that the campus opened to students.
The two-story, wood-frame home was designed by architect Arthur Van Dyke and built by George Knapp, who built the Gordon Hotel in downtown Lafayette in 1904.
The survey said the home provides an “excellent example of Queen Anne style,” and that the “two-story front gallery, polygonal bays under gables and decorative paneled band between stories” were unique to Lafayette. The home was said to have an elevator; investigation showed it had a dumbwaiter lift between the first- and second-floor bathrooms. Ceilings are 12 feet high on the first floor, 10 feet high on the second.
In 1901, Caffery said, the home would have been on the outskirts of Lafayette, with SLII among its few neighbors.
Want to contribute? Sent tax-deductible contributions to https://give.louisiana.edu/give-now/restoretheroy