Monroe’s Historic Cooley House Example Of Rare Style

MONROE, La. (AP) — A renowned historic property in Ouachita Parish, once endangered, is slowly being restored.

The rarest surviving example of Prairie-style residential architecture in the South, the Cooley House currently faces structural concerns that have placed it on the state’s most endangered sites list. For example, electrical and plumbing systems are minimal and no longer service all areas of the house. Still, substantial improvements have been made to the house to match the original design.

The house is significant to the Monroe community and the efforts to restore it must be detailed and meticulous, according to Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation executive director Brian Davis.

“We want to make sure that we do this restoration as true and right,” Davis said. “We don’t want to mess this up because it is such a rare style of prairie architecture. Most of the architecture of this style is built up in Chicago or that kind of region so its very rare that this design be down south.”

The G.B. Cooley House, located at 1011 South Grand Street, Monroe, was added to the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Sites list in 2005.

The house was originally designed in 1908 by internationally acclaimed architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin for local businessman Gilbert Brian Cooley.

Cooley was the owner of the Monroe Steamed Laundry, which once sat where the River Pavilion amphitheater is now located. He led efforts to construct a tuberculosis sanitarium in West Monroe, which opened in 1937. The facility later transitioned from a tuberculosis hospital to become G.B. Cooley Life Services, which helps people with developmental disabilities.

The City of Monroe purchased the house in 2008 and entered into a cooperative agreement with the Cooley House Foundation to help raise funds for the restoration of the home and historic gardens. In 2010, the level of importance of the Cooley House listing on the National Register of Historic Places was elevated from statewide importance to national significance.

The construction of the Cooley House began in 1925 and was completed the following year. The house was built of pebble-dash masonry and steel with wood trim, which was a common aesthetic in northern states at the time but rare for Louisiana. In addition to the green tile roof, the house also included a central vacuum system, central heating system, an incinerator, a basement, a steam shower and a sunken tub, all of which were foreign concepts in residential construction in north Louisiana at the time.

The house also included a detached carport, which was not included in the original 1908 plans. During the 1910s, Cooley became the first person in Monroe to own an automobile, and the structure was added to the 1925 revisions.

The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and added to Louisiana’s Most Endangered Places List by the Louisiana Trust for Historic Perseveration in 2005.

The Cooley House Foundation has raised funds for restoration through memberships, donations, grants and special tours of historic sites in the region. In 2010, the house received a new roof and partial electrical upgrade through a grant from the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation.

In 2020, the cork flooring on the ground level was replaced with materials and design to match the original, which had become dry-rotted after years of roof leaks and being covered by carpet and padding.

The Monroe City Council approved plans in February to secure funding to continue the restoration of the house.