No longer green, ULL 1st president’s desk back on display


LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — After nearly a year of restoration work, a rolltop desk that belonged to the first president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is back on display with other furniture from his office.

While the matching chair, shelves and card file had kept their original golden oak color, someone had painted the desk guacamole green and screwed the rolltop cover shut, according to a university news release.

Nobody knows when or why it was painted but the paint had to go, said University Libraries interim dean Susan Richard.

Paint had to be removed by hand from the rolltop cover’s crevices, said George Parker, owner of Parker Woodworks & Furniture Repair in Lafayette.

The desk, now back in the library, reminds viewers of the University’s modest beginnings, said Zachary Stein, head of Special Collections.

The earliest date on any file in the desk was May 16, 1905, when the school had about 200 students and 15 faculty members. That was five years into the term of Edwin Lewis Stephens, the school’s president until 1938 and the one who oversaw the name change from Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute to Southwestern Louisiana Institute in 1921.

The date gives an idea of when Stephens bought the desk from Moon Desk Co. of Muskegon, Michigan, officials said.

Whether he used the desk throughout his tenure is unclear, but also unlikely, the university said.

Its cubbyholes, compartments and filing spaces would have become less useful as the school and paperwork grew. The school had 2,100 students and about 100 faculty members in 1938, Stephens’ last year there.

An estimate for the restoration cost isn’t yet in but will be paid by the UL at Lafayette Foundation Friends of Library Development Fund, university spokesman Eric Maron said in an email.

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