Southern receives nearly $500K for preservation of iconic building

State News

The grant is for the preservation of Southern University’s oldest building, the Archives Building.

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The National Park Service recently announced a grant of nearly $500,000 to Southern University and A&M College for the preservation of a historic structure on the Baton Rouge campus.

The grant is one of 18 awarded to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and is meant to assist with the preservation of Southern’s oldest building, the Archives Building. The structure is part of the Southern University National Historic District on the bluff of the Mississippi River.  

“These grants help us to honor the legacy of HBCUs in serving our nation’s higher education needs,” said David Vela, former deputy director of the National Park Service. “Funding awarded this year will help preserve 18 historic properties on HBCU campuses in 12 states, many of which are listed in the National Register.” 

Grant funding will be used to rehabilitate the Archives Building, which dates back to 1840. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. The grant award of $499,938 will serve to also stabilize the grounds and provide students hands-on learning opportunities in historical preservation. 

“The Archives Building represents the humble beginnings of Southern University and we appreciate the support from the National Parks Service in recognizing the significance of preserving this property,” said Ray L. Belton, president-chancellor of the Southern University System. “More importantly, this effort is an opportunity for us to continue to honor our founders and ensure that future generations know the history of the University.” 

The Archives Building is also referred to as The Little White House and serves as a landmark on campus, according to a statement from the university. As the only habitable building on the campus when Southern University relocated from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1914, the Archives Building was used in the early years as the university president’s home, administration building, women’s residence, dining hall, infirmary and a social center. 

“After rehabilitation of the building is complete, it will once again house relevant historic artifacts and data about the University, and will also be available to not only faculty, staff, and students, but also to the Scotlandville community and visitors as an interpretive center,” said Robyn Merrick, Southern University System vice president for External Affairs. 

Funding for this grant program is made possible through Congressional appropriations to the Historic Preservation Fund. The fund uses revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, providing assistance for a broad range of preservation projects without expending tax dollars. 

Southern’s Office of Facility Services will oversee the project and estimates the rehabilitation will be complete by the middle of 2021. 

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