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April 19, 2001

ULM Opens Doors to University House

Faculty, students, and friends of the University of Louisiana at Monroe celebrated Thursday as a beloved landmark on the University of Louisiana at Monroe campus was officially reopened. The structure, nearly as old as the University itself, is now officially open and ready for use thanks to the efforts of many individuals and the generosity of Ms. Kitty DeGree, local philanthropist and longtime close friend of ULM.

President Lawson L. Swearingen, Jr., thanked all who had participated in this project, particularly the University House Committee chaired by Paxton Oliver and including Jan Corder, Dale Magoun, Frank McGough, Louis Ace, Eric Pani, and Betty Cooper. Appointed by the President when the structure was moved, this Committee has been ". . . instrumental in the ultimate outcome as is evidenced by the lovely new facility standing here today," said Swearingen. "We are indebted to Dr. Oliver and the Committee for their dedication of both time and talents together with the leadership that they have shown throughout the planning and execution of this very important project. We thank you on behalf of all who will be able to use this wonderful facility in the future."

The University House, formerly the official residence of University presidents, was moved to make way for construction of the University library. That move evidenced the Administration's desire to preserve and protect this historic structure rather than take the easier route of demolition. The complicated relocation project required many steps, including the removal of the brick veneer surrounding the house. The structure was moved across campus to its present site, placed on new foundation piers, and rebricked.

"We accomplished the move with little or no damage," said Bill Weirick, ULM's Interim Director of Facilities and Planning. "We were able to move the house at a cost very near what it would have cost to destroy it. We made the move and were able to preserve a wonder landmark that was built and then later renovated by famed local architect, the late King Stubbs."

Originally built in the early 1930's, the residence was designed in the Colonial Revival style featuring a simple Portico design, according to Dr. Lestar Martin, avid historic preservationist and expert on Stubbs' architectural designs. In its original form, the home was known as the L.N. Slater House, after ULM's first president. ULM President Emeritus George T. Walker commissioned Stubbs to remodel the residence during the early 1960's. During this renovation, a wing was added and some modifications were made to the original structure. Important to President Walker and others involved in the project was to retain the original Colonial Revival architecture so that the residence would remain true to its original design.

Martin praised the ULM Administration for its "diligence in preserving this historic structure rather than simply destroying it as is so often done." He complimented Mrs. DeGree, whose generosity made this reclamation possible, and other visionaries who worked tirelessly to save the landmark and provide not only the funds to underwrite the project but also devise creative new uses for this important structure.

Though much work has been done, ULM has only completed the first phase of renovations. Phase II calls for the addition of a large dining area and food preparation area. The new dining area will include a spectacular view of Bayou DeSiard. Currently, the University is putting together a funding package for Phase II according to Weirick. The original structure was often used for a variety of social events. In its new form, the facility will once again be the site of social activities as well as provide guest quarters for visiting scholars and other distinguished visitors to the University.

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