The new William A. Brookshire Military Museum began a soft opening Tuesday, with visitors being able to visit the museum from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. every day until Sunday. The museum’s grand opening is scheduled for Veterans Day and will open concurrently with LSU Salutes activities.
The university cited the opening as the start of the celebration of the recent renovations done to the university’s iconic Memorial Tower. The tower has been undergoing remodeling for the past three years.
Cangelosi-Ward Construction were contracted to renovate the tower and refurbished the exterior, waterproofed the walls and replaced the windows and interior walls with newer and more energy-efficient versions.
While the university owns the Memorial Tower, the Cadets of the Ole War Skule were slated by the university to oversee the operations, according to Randy Gurie, the executive director of the Cadets of the Ole War Skule.
“The university owns the building technically, like they do all the buildings,” Gurie said. “But the Board of Supervisors named us the primary occupants, with the understanding that it would become the LSU military museum.”
In 1919 and 1920, the American Legion called for all states to create something that would honor the fallen soldiers from their state. The American Legion posts of Louisiana came together to design and finance the Memorial Tower, according to Gurie.
“When this campus was dedicated in 1926, the American Legion then deeded this building to the university,” Gurie said.
The completed renovations for the Memorial Tower were much needed according to Richard Lipsey, a Baton Rouge businessman and member of the Board of Directors for the Cadets of the Ole War Skule.
“It was just in terrible shape, physically, the outside and inside. There were cracks in the tower, the beautiful dome had deteriorated, the glass was broken on top and the clock rarely worked,” Lipsey told The Reveille. “Now we’ve got a totally renovated, inside and out, remodeled tower which also includes a new, clean plaza.”
The original projected cost for the renovations increased substantially as the project ensued, but funding was found through numerous private donations and with aid from the state.
“It started as a $6 million project, and it seemed like overnight it morphed into about $14.5 million,” Gurie said. “There were a lot of private donations, and the state was very helpful in getting some money to the mix. But it’s paid for and that’s a good thing.”
Lipsey went into further detail regarding how the funding to renovate the tower, create the museum and construct an exterior plaza was secured from the state.
“We went to the governor and Jay Dardenne, and they agreed that if we could raise half the money, they would give us the other half,” Lipsey said. “A total of $5.5 million from the state, and we ended up raising $6 million.”
While the university did not aid in financing the project, according to Lipsey, the aid given by certain individuals from the university’s Facility and Property Oversight department was essential throughout the renovation process.
“We had worked and worked with LSU and really got nowhere, as far as LSU helping us,” Lipsey said. “Then all of a sudden, we got to the right people at LSU, like Roger Husser, Tony Lombardo, and Paul Favaloro.”
The museum is named after William A. Brookshire, who aided in establishing the museum and made multiple gifts to the LSU William A. Brookshire Military & Veterans Student Center to aid veterans, service members, dependents and survivors succeed in higher education.
A select group of people who supported the renovations and remodeling toured the completed museum Monday, and Lipsey said the military museum turned out better than he had anticipated.
“It’s more satisfying, it's more complete, it's one of the most beautiful small museums that you’ll find anywhere,” Lipsey said. “I think it’s very important faculty, staff and students go see it. I think they’ll really appreciate the work that’s been done.”