Saving LSU’s Roman pool
By Eric Wills | From Preservation | July/August 2009
When Aimee Schmitt visited the Gov. Huey P. Long outdoor pool at Louisiana State University for the first time five years ago, she was surprised to find the wrought-iron entrance gate locked. Built in 1932 as part of Long's campaign to turn the university into a leading institution of higher education, the Roman Baths-style facility had been a thriving center for campus social life. And it was where Schmitt's husband, Adam, had trained with the LSU swimming team, winning a conference championship in 1988.
But when Adam returned to the university as its head swimming coach, Aimee discovered that weeds were snaking through the pool's cracked bottom. Why, she asked, was this "rich legacy" being wasted and allowed to deteriorate?
Though she hadn't thought herself a preservationist, Schmitt was soon leading a campaign to save the pool and reestablish it "as a unique jewel in the university's crown."
As she quickly discovered, the university faces an extensive backlog of capital projects. Restoring the pool and the adjacent field house will cost an estimated $25 million, says Emmett David, LSU's facility development director. With budgets tight and numerous other essential projects competing for funding, David acknowledges it could take decades before that happens.
In the meantime, Schmitt has been fundraising and is now approaching her goal of $40,000 to conduct a feasibility study that would assess the site's structural condition. She envisions the pool reborn as a new social hub for students. "So many lives were changed here," she says. "We'd like to pass that on to the next generation."
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