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Thread: History of Cypress Lake Branches In Two Different Directions

  1. Louisiana History of Cypress Lake Branches In Two Different Directions

    History of Cypress Lake Branches In Two Different Directions

    LOUISIANA La. - Cypress Lake has reinvented itself many times over the University of Louisiana's 104-year history but has kept its identity, remaining the nucleus of student activities ranging from graduations prior to World War II to today's canoe races.

    The two-acre swamp is a vibrant ecosystem teeming with turtles, fish, birds and 5-foot long alligators. The wildlife mingles with the lake's Spanish moss-draped cypress trees, purple and yellow irises and other indigenous plants.

    Although the cypress trees are hundreds of years old, the swamp itself was created during the 1940s. Before the university was founded, the area was home to a different type of wildlife.

    "Geographically, it was originally a buffalo wallow, going back to ancient times," said Bruce Turner, a history professor and head of the special collections at Dupr Library.

    Once the university opened its doors in 1900, the area, called Cypress Grove, served as a pigpen for the university farm in the 1910s and as an outdoor theater for Shakespearean productions, marching band practice and graduation during the '20s and '30s.

    Two different opinions of how the grove became a lake are prevalent, but both could be correct. Some said the university created the lake as a precautionary measure taken during World War II; others said it was just to save the trees, which badly needed water.

    Two women who devoted their lives to the university, Maria Mario Mamalakis and Vesta Bourgeois, participated in the oral history project and recorded in the mid-'80s their memories of Cypress Lake.

    "People didn't realize that we were so near the gulf and had a lot of German submarines in the gulf area," said Mamalakis, explaining why the university decided to create the lake. "It was a worry that we could even be bombed. It was Cypress Grove for many years, but they were afraid that we might need extra water in case of fire if a bomb had been dropped on campus." Bourgeois concurred, adding that female students filled the swamp and conducted fire drills.

    "They realized that if the Germans came to the gulf south of Abbeville, they would bomb not us, but the vulnerable place, Baton Rouge," Bourgeois explained. "If they had to come back with bombs (in their airplanes), they would not go back to the ship, but would drop them at some vulnerable place, and Southwestern would have been one.

    "So they began preparing for this type thing, and they saw that there was no water. So they put water (in the grove), and we began teaching girls at the gym bucket brigades. So we had ladders, and an obstacle course for the girls to run, realizing that all of our men went into the service, and the others were in the National Guard or volunteers, so that the women would have to do these sorts of things. That's how Cypress Grove was filled. Not many people knew that."

    Although the grove was a popular gathering place and was even used as a "lovers' lane," Turner said students accepted the swamp because it was part of the war effort.

    "I'm sure if they made the case that it was being done for war preparedness, then for patriotic reasons, people would accept that," Turner said. "It was right in the middle of World War II, and everyone was concerned. Everybody was willing to make sacrifices for the war."

    The other theory of why the swamp was created was that the trees were dying and needed water. Turner said this is likely because the university president had a background in agriculture.


    "The person who was president (of the university) then actually came out of the college of agriculture, Joel Fletcher, so he was probably very attuned to the forestry aspect of it, because that was his academic background," Turner explained.

    Another unknown part of the lake's history is when the wildlife arrived. The swamp had a pair of swans, an unnamed male and his mate, Claudia, in the early '70s. However, it is unknown when the alligators arrived.

    "The alligators certainly had to be there by the '70s, or the swans wouldn't have been eaten," Turner concluded. "I've heard various stories, like people in town would find alligators close to their house, and they'd come over and dump them in the lake. I would assume it would've happened fairly soon, because if they consciously wanted to create a swamp situation, that's how to do it."

    After its creation, Cypress Lake has remained a student gathering place. Although students rarely gather in the swamp, it has happened. In 1962, Life magazine photographed students ice skating on the lake when it froze over. Lagniappe Day activities sometimes include canoeing and other water activities.

    Turner said the most exciting thing to happen lately in the swamp was a student's close encounter with an alligator.

    "The most interesting story recently that I've heard coming out of the swamp is every once in a while, they hire students to go in there and clean it up during the summer," Turner said. "One of them got whipped by the tail of an alligator. I imagine that was a very interesting workman's compensation case."

    Through its long and colorful history, Cypress Lake has mellowed to become a place for students to draw, to read and to reflect on life.

    "It's one of the prettiest sites on campus, without a doubt," said Kathleen Thames, author of "100 Years," a book celebrating the university's centennial in 2000. "Every time I pass there, I think it looks a little bit different than the day before. I think people are drawn to it because it's a place to sort of relax and maybe step back."

    LINK accurate but broken

    The Vermilion
    Jennifer Reinert - News Editor
    Kelly David


  2. Default Academic swamp

    ULL's campus lake boasts colorful, disputed history

    LOUISIANA La. -- Cypress Lake, the man-made swamp in the center of the University of Louisiana campus, has evolved over its 100-year history from a simple grove of trees to a living lake, a place for students to gather and reflect on campus life.
    "It's a unique setting and something that you just don't expect to see on a college campus," said Bruce Turner, head of the special collections at Dupree Library on campus.

    The 2-acre swamp's ecosystem teems with turtles, fish, birds and 5-foot-long alligators.

    The wildlife mingles with the lake's Spanish-moss-draped bald cypress trees, black tupelo trees, blue zigzag and copper irises and other indigenous plants.

    After the university opened in 1900, the area was only a cypress grove, serving as a pig pen for the university farm in the 1910s; as an outdoor theater for Shakespearean productions, marching band practice and graduation during the '20s and '30s; and as a swamp from the '40s until now.

    Two different tales of how the grove became a lake have circulated, and both could be correct: The university created the lake as a precautionary measure during World War II or was trying to save the cypress trees, which badly needed water.

    Two women involved with the university during its earlier days, Maria Mario Mamalakis and Vesta Bourgeois, participated in an oral history project and in the mid-'80s recorded their memories of Cypress Lake.

    "People didn't realize that we were so near the Gulf (of Mexico) and had a lot of German submarines in the Gulf area," Mamalakis said in the oral history interview, and she said that's why the university decided to create the lake.

    Two different tales of how the grove became a lake have circulated, and both could be correct: The university created the lake as a precautionary measure during World War II or was trying to save the cypress trees, which badly needed water.

    "It was a worry that we could even be bombed. It was Cypress Grove for many years, but they were afraid that we might need extra water in case of fire if a bomb had been dropped on campus."

    Bourgeois told historians the same thing, adding that female students filled the swamp with water and conducted fire drills while many male students were overseas.

    "They put water (in the grove), and we began teaching girls at the gym bucket brigades," Bourgeois told historians. "So we had ladders, and an obstacle course for the girls to run, realizing that all of our men went into the service, and the others were in the National Guard or volunteers, so that the women would have to do these sorts of things. That's how Cypress Grove was filled. Not many people knew that."

    The other theory was the trees were dying and needed water.

    Turner said this was probably because the university president at the time, Joel Fletcher, had a background in agriculture.

    Another disputed fact of the swamp's history is when the wildlife arrived.

    The university acquired a pair of swans in the 1970s, but it is unknown when or how the alligators arrived.

    "The alligators certainly had to be there by the '70s, or the swans wouldn't have been eaten," Turner concluded. "I've heard various stories, like people in town would find alligators close to their house and they'd come over and dump them in the lake. I would assume it would've happened fairly soon because, if they consciously wanted to create a swamp situation, that's how to do it."

    Mike Flaherty, building services superintendent for the Student Union, agreed, saying people may have found a "cute" baby alligator and dropped it off in Cypress Lake when it got too large. He also suggested alligators may have migrated to the swamp.

    "How did they get in there? Who knows?" asked Flaherty, who has worked with the swamp for more than 20 years.

    Although it is constantly reinventing itself outwardly, Cypress Lake has remained a student gathering place. Students rarely gather within the swamp itself, but it has happened. In the cold winter of 1962, Life magazine photographed students ice skating on the lake. Student activities today sometimes include canoeing and fishing rodeos.

    Turner said the most-exciting thing to happen lately in the swamp was a student worker's close encounter with an alligator. Flaherty said the university occasionally hires students to clean the lake.

    "One of them got whipped by the tail of an alligator," Turner said. "I imagine that was a very interesting workman's compensation case."

    Through its long and colorful history, Cypress Lake has mellowed to become a place for students to draw, to read and to relax.

    "It's one of the prettiest sites on campus, without a doubt," said Kathleen Thames, author of "100 Years," a book celebrating the university's centennial in 2000. "Every time I pass there, I think it looks a little bit different than the day before."

    Link accurate but broken

    By JENNIFER REINERT
    Special to The Advocate


    Photo taken at The Swamp.
    The UL Gator was at least 10 feet long.
    The baby grunts on the head was almost two feet long.

    For a better view go to the bottom of the Louisiana Wallpaper
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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