Epps House restored on LSUA campus
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LSUA) - In the fall of 2013, Louisiana State University of Alexandria opened the exhibition “Solomon Northup’s Gateway to Freedom” in the Epps House on campus just as the critically acclaimed award-winning movie “Twelve Years A Slave” was released.
The exhibition— created with a team of community and campus members— was led by Alexandria Museum of Art Executive Director, Catherine M. Pears. It focused on the history of the structure, Oakland Plantation (formerly on the LSUA grounds), Solomon Northup, and story of Sue Eakin, a former LSUA professor who championed not only the move of the structure to the LSUA campus, but also spent years keeping the Solomon Northup story alive. The installation included artifacts from the property, items from the LSUA Archives, and the AMoA folk art collection.
Since that time, many tourists and visitors have enjoyed tours of the exhibition. Unfortunately, due to structural issues with the building, it had to be closed to the public.
The LSUA Foundation decided to form an alliance and make the necessary repairs to restore this historic house.
RoyOMartin Sustainable Resources, the Alexandria Pineville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the LSUA Foundation each made significant financial contributions, while Tarver Building Materials donated significant in-kind materials to allow for the completion of this phase of the project. Skip Converse was hired to stabilize the structure, repair the foundation, flooring, and porch.
“I am so happy to see that the repairs are complete, and I am very grateful for the partners that have made this happen. This structure is so important to our local and national history. Stories like Solomon Northup’s, as well as Sue Eakin’s deserve to be told in order to remind us where we have been and can inform us of who we want to be going forward,” said Pears.
The LSUA community wishes to recognize these generous donors and thank them, specifically for the funding and efforts to maintain this structure so important to the culture and history of this area.
Phase 1 of the project to restore this property is now complete as a result of the commitment from this cooperative alliance. Phase 2 of the project will include reinterpretation and reinstallation of the exhibition for tourism and educational purposes.
The legacy of Sue Eakin to make sure Solomon Northup’s story was not lost to history will continue as LSUA embraces and enhances her work to tell his story within the walls of the structure he built. The university will now begin to identify grants to fund the research and installation, as well as seeking appropriate African American historians to inform that process. LSUA is committed to telling the story of this historic dwelling originally built by Solomon Northup and the abolitionist who helped to deliver his freedom.
“Being an institution of learning, we are charged with providing learning opportunities to those that visit our campus and our students. The story of Solomon Northup and the Epps House is of historical significance and is a symbol of history that we can learn lessons from and make strides to let our differences bring us together, not separate us,” said Sheila Hudson, LSUA Assistant Registrar and Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
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