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Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana

Keep Cool with Cooley

A Prairie-style historic home in Northeast Louisiana

Keep Cool with Cooley

Doug Breckenridge

Cooley House

The Year of the River is underway in Northeast Louisiana, and what better way to celebrate it than to highlight one of the most culturally significant homes along the beloved Ouachita? The Cooley House was designed in 1908 by architectural duo Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony. Mahony was one of the first female architects in the country, and both artists were associated with architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Prairie-style home was commissioned by Gilbert Brian Cooley, otherwise known as Captain Cooley. Midwest landscapes inspired this style, which makes finding the Cooley House in Monroe, Louisiana, so surprising. Characteristics of original Prairie style include open floor plans, horizontal lines, and the use of natural materials, all of which are on display at the Cooley House. From the outdoor gardens to the cork floors, the Cooley House is a historically significant building, not only for Monroe, but also for the state of Louisiana and the South.

Construction on the Cooley House didn’t begin until 1926, because Griffin and Mahoney were in Australia, designing the capital city of Canberra. Once completed, however, the public did not know what to make of the Cooley House; some even joked that Captain Cooley had pulled a steamboat from the Ouachita to call home. The National Register of Historic Places recognized the Cooley House for its importance to the state of Louisiana in 1986, and in 2008, the City of Monroe purchased the home for its historical value. One hundred years after the original documents were drawn, the Cooley House Foundation was created with the hope of restoring the home to its former glory. The first renovations made were to the eye-catching jade-tiled roof. In 2010, the Cooley House was upgraded to national importance on the National Register of Historic Places.

Efforts to raise funds for renovations to the Cooley House include the Monroe Mid-Mod Tour hosted by the foundation. Participants of the event got to tour mid-century modern homes in the area, along with the Cooley House. Proceeds from events like this are dedicated towards ongoing renovations. Once the updates are complete, the Cooley House Foundation will continue to work as a nonprofit, serving as an educational center and museum for programs, exhibitions, and other events.

The Cooley House is the only home of its kind in Louisiana, a priceless treasure that has become a landmark for northeast Louisiana. International visitors come to Monroe to see the original Prairie-style home for themselves. Doug Breckenridge, president of the Cooley House Foundation, says that the structure could be a uniting force in the community. He sees high architecture, like that of the Cooley House, as an art form all can enjoy. According to Breckenridge, a complete restoration of the structure will contribute to the cultural corridor being developed along the Ouachita River, which includes the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens and the Masur Museum of Art.

For more information on future events and ways to donate, visit cooleyhouse.org.