Thrive Magazine City of Lake Charles 150th Anniversary Issue

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May 2017






May 2017

Call Us For All Your Real Estate Needs!!! Two Locations to Better Serve You 3709 Maplewood Drive Sulphur, 70663 337-625-3150

May 2017

524 E College Street Lake Charles, 70601 337-474-8877

Each Office is Independently Owned & Operated/Licensed by the LREC Thrive Thrive


CHENNAULT THEN These photos from the 1950s and 1960s show Lake Charles Air Force Base, re-named Chennault Air Force Base. (Photos courtesy McNeese State University “Historic Photographs of Southwest Louisiana” Collection)

CHENNAULT NOW Chennault International Airport is a thriving hub of activity, the home base for transportation, cargo, manufacturing, service and aircraft maintenance companies, providing some 1,500 jobs.


3650 Senator J. Bennett Johnston Avenue, Lake Charles, Louisiana 70615 337-491-9961 or 800-272-2422 • Email


May 2017

May 2017




In This Issue


8 Introduction 9 Resiliency 10 Sesquicentennial Events 12 Lake Charles Memorabilia 14 Timeline 60 By the Numbers

Early Years 16 Early Settlers Early Home Construction

Architecture 18 Icons of Architecture

Religion 22 Cathedral of Immaculate Conception

Anniversary logo donated by Healthy Image Marketing

23 New Sunlight Baptist Church 24 Temple Sinai

Business & Industries 26

27 28 29 30 31 32 34 36 37 38

Lake Charles by Rail Lumber Agriculture Port of Lake Charles Banking American Press Natural Gas Hospitals Muller’s Pryce’s Pharmacy Gaming

Military 42 Gerstner Field

44 Cantonment Atkinson 45 Chennault Air Force Base

Culture & Leisure

46 48 50 52

Lake Charles Festivals Rosa Hart Theatre Lake Charles Symphony Sports Past

Higher Education 54 McNeese State University & Sowela Technical Community College


PHOTO CREDIT Pati Threatt, McNeese Archives SOWELA Shonda Manuel, Thrive Magazine Brett Downer Trent Gremillion Adley Cormier The Port of Lake Charles Cody Porché, Porche Aerial Imagery Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau

Editors and Publishers

Kristy Como Armand Christine Fisher

Creative Director

Shonda Manuel

Managing Editor

Angie Kay Dilmore

Business Manager

Katie McDaniel Stevenson

Assistant Designers

Barbara Van Gossen Kris Roy Mandy Gilmore

Natural Disasters 56 Great Fire of 1910 58 Historic Hurricanes

Future 66 Southwest Louisiana 2040 6

Thrive is designed for people focused on living a happy, healthy life, one that is balanced, full of energy and contentment. Thrive readers want to make the most of every day and be successful in all areas of their lives – family, health, home and career.


May 2017

May 2017





Happy 150th Anniversary,

LAKE CHARLES Much can happen in 150 years, as evidenced by Lake Charles’ rich history, rooted in a resilient people determined to grow a vibrant prosperous city. From the earliest settlers to natives born and raised here over the decades to the newcomers transplanted to Southwest Louisiana today to meet the workforce needs of our thriving industries, the people of Lake Charles have consistently raised the bar on what it means to create a flourishing community—a place where families can make homes and raise children, where people can thrive with good jobs in good neighborhoods and enjoy a plethora of opportunities for the arts, culture, and entertainment. In this special commemorative issue, through stories and historic photos, we celebrate Lake Charles’ sesquicentennial and all she has achieved and become over the past 150 years. A special thanks to Brett Downer and Adley Cormier for their historic expertise and contributions; to Pati Threatt at the McNeese Archives for assistance with photos; to Katie Harrington with the City of Lake Charles for help with content; and to all the contributors and business supporters for making this issue possible.




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May 2017


After tough punches, the people of Lake Charles always get back up by Brett Downer

Between the lines of Lake Charles’ 150-year history are themes that have become apparent in times of crisis: —Fire? Hurricane? Clean up immediately. Rebuild quickly. —Economic emergency? Regroup, empathize, and act. —People in need? Help them. The examples span the city timeline. The Great Fire of 1910 was a disaster that might have permanently redirected the city to a diminished future — as the 1900 hurricane did to Galveston. Instead, the speed at which Lake Charles picked up from 100-plus burned buildings, and then put up new and better ones, shows that hands weren’t wringing. They were clearing out all the burn piles of trash commonly found behind businesses — to cut the risk of another such fire. Afterward, a rebuild was completed with remarkable turnaround times. Nearly a century later, Hurricane Rita brought the same response. People got to work without prompting. Many evacuees snuck back home sooner than allowed — sharing knowledge of back routes as a secret point of pride. Saws, shovels, mops, rakes, and hammers were utilized to patch up homes and lives. Faraway government officials dithered by comparison -- not that we waited for their direction or expected the quick help they had promised. The Great Depression/World War II era and the 1980s oil bust also tested collective spirits and household budgets. There was no magic deed to fix either one, of course, but people chose to embrace their situation rather than resign themselves to it. At the local theatres in the early 1940s, people went to the movies to escape their troubles. But when Rosa Hart stood in front of the screen and exhorted them to give to the war-bonds effort, the moviegoers dug in their pockets and gave what they could. Donations in Lake Charles made Hart the top seller on the circuit. When people lost good-paying oilfield jobs in the 1980s, local unemployment soared to 16 percent. The efforts to lift spirits, if not immediate fortunes, went as far as psychological and spiritual lengths. There was the Lake Area Love Affair, a campaign to remind people of the value of spending their dollars with local businesses, thereby helping each other. There was the Pray for Jobs effort — which issued its own bumper stickers bearing the phrase — to remind people that not all was lost. Some people knocked both campaigns, but no one could say that a hurting city wasn’t trying whatever it could think of to get back up. People in Lake Charles have long shown they not only take care of themselves, they’re willing to help others in need during an emergency — showing up in cando spirit with chow, a chainsaw, or a charitable donation. This adaptability is also good economics. We’ve seen Lake Charles nimbly diversify its economy by becoming a go-to place for casino gaming. A major cluster of aircraft/aerospace jobs (at Chennault International Airport) and a college to train people for work there and elsewhere (at Sowela Technical Community College) were both created from the abandoned expanse of an old airbase. We’re part of the regional effort to expand the capacity to move natural gas, as the LNG terminal in South Lake Charles illustrates. We’ve seen a renaissance of restoration and adaptive reuse of downtown buildings. That’s not just highbrow stuff to excite preservationists — it’s a model that brings people back to an area in order to shop, work, and live there. We’ve even been smart enough to monetize our love of a good party. Festivalcrazy Lake Charles has not only made Mardi Gras a good reason to celebrate in the streets, but an attraction for tourists and their dollars. The city boasts it is second only to New Orleans in Mardi Gras size and spirit.

May 2017




MAYORS Lake Charles The City of Lake Charles Plans Sesquicentennial Events

Name Term Randy Roach Rodney Geyen (Interim Mayor) Willie Landry Mount James Sudduth Edward S. Watson Paul Savoie William (Bill) E. Boyer James Sudduth Alfred E. Roberts Sidney L. Gray Thomas Cameron Price Jack H. Handley J. A. Trotti Leon Locke Henry J. Geary Josh A. Trotti George L. Riling C. Brent Richard Charles H. Winterhaler John H. Poe James P. Geary Pat Crowley Alexander L. Reid Adolph Meyer William Meyers A.H. Moss John A. Spence James W. Bryan

Special events are currently being planned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Lake Charles throughout 2017. After the festivities, including a Time Capsule Opening, Parade of Festivals, and a Family Concert that took place on April 22, The City of Lake Charles Sesquicentennial Planning Committee has several more events on the calendar. Festivals, event organizers, and area organizations are invited to join in the celebration by applying to become a designated event of the Sesquicentennial Celebration. A complete list of events and the application to become a designated event are available at Add your sesquicentennial event to our growing list!

150 Years of Lake Charles Exhibit Friday, September 29 1911 Historic City Hall | 5 pm Take a tour through the history of Lake Charles via this multimedia exhibit opening in conjunction with Gallery Promenade. This exhibition will feature a series of panels outlining the history of Lake Charles. The panels will be accompanied by objects on display, as well as a slide show of photographs.

Community Event, Saturday, September 30 Lakefront Promenade Plans are underway for a family-friendly event, showcasing the best of Lake Charles culture, food and fun on Saturday, September 30. Save the date now and keep a lookout for more details to come soon.

Community-Wide Day of Prayer Sunday, October 1 Area churches are invited and encouraged to offer special prayers for the continued growth and well-being of the community. 10


2000 - Present 1999 - 2000 1993 - 1999 1989 - 1993 1985 - 1989 1981 - 1985 1973 - 1981 1965 - 1973 1961 - 1965 1953 - 1961 1945 - 1953 1936 - 1945 1933 - 1936 1929 - 1933 1925 - 1929 1917 - 1925 1913 - 1916 1909 - 1913 1903 - 1909 1901 - 1903 1899 - 1900 1893 - 1899 1888 - 1892 1887 - 1888 1874 - 1887 1873 - 1874 1871 - 1873 1868 - 1871 May 2017

May 2017




Share your Lake Charles Memorabilia!

Pop-Up Museums Central Library, located at 301 W. Claude St. in Lake Charles, will host a series of Pop-Up Museums in celebration of the Lake Charles Sesquicentennial. These Pop-Up Museums are temporary exhibits created by the people who show up to participate. Think of it as a community-wide “show and tell.” Items can be as simple as a drawing or as priceless as a family heirloom. At the end of the program, the items go back home with the owners. Those who bring items are encouraged to stand along with their items and talk about them, giving visitors a story about the history of where they came from or who they belonged to. For more information, or if you would like to participate, please call Central Library at (337) 721-7116. The Pop-Up Museums will continue monthly at Central Library, with a different topic each month. The schedule is as follows:

Sesquicentennial Committee Calls for Historic Objects by Katie Harrington

The year of 2017 marks the 150th birthday of the City of Lake Charles, and special events are currently being planned to commemorate the occasion. Among the events will be an exhibition at Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center titled “150 Years of Lake Charles.” The opening reception will take place Friday, September 29, during Gallery Promenade from 5:00–9:00 p.m. The exhibition will consist of a series of panels outlining the history of Lake Charles. The panels will be accompanied by objects on display, as well as a slide show of photographs. The exhibition will be on display through December 30, 2017. If you or your church, organization, club, or business has items and/or photos of historic significance, and would like to loan them to the gallery, go to and click on events and exhibit opening. There will be a form to fill out and send in. The committee reserves the right to final selection of objects and photos. Objects/photos will not be copied or shared for any purpose other than the Lake Charles Sesquicentennial Exhibition. Deadline for submissions is August 1, 2017. 12


April 29

Businesses and Restaurants

May 20

Industry and Transportation

June 17

Sports and Outdoors

July 15

Libraries and Education

August 19

Entertainment and Media

September 16

Churches and Neighborhoods

May 2017

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Lake Charles Filtration is a distributor and manufacturer of filtration products serving the petrochemical, oil field and construction contracting industries. We also offer commercial and residential HVAC and water filtration products. In 2014, Lake Charles Filtration purchased Gary Filtration, a leader in the industry for over 30 years, and continues their proud tradition of service and sales. We lead the market in filtration products in our region due to our excellent customer service, leading branded products, product exclusives and manufactured product line. We’re proud to be a family-owned and operated business headquartered in midtown Lake Charles. David Housslere, Mangaing Partner / General Manager Steve Landreneau, Inside Sales / Purchasing Moby Goodwin, Partner / Sales Bryan Vincent, Partner / Business Advisor

May 2017




1781 LeBleu Family arrives in SWLA

1867 Charleston, named for settler Charles Sallier, officially becomes Lake Charles

1910 Arcade Theater opens

1911 Lake Charles Humane Society is organized

1951 Lake Charles High School destroyed by fire

1910 Great Fire

1906 Pleasure Pier and the Majestic Hotel open for business

1951 13 million dollar Calcasieu River Bridge opened for traffic

1956 First African-American students graduated from McNeese

1967 The Lake Charles City School System joins Calcasieu Parish School System, after 60 years of being separate

2013 Lake Charles City Court Building opened

2005 Hurricane Rita

2016 construction begins on the $43.2 billion Wastewater Treatment Plant BC


1871 Steamer Cassie arrives from Galveston with 50-60 immigrants

1900 Lake Charles High publishes first school newspaper in state, called “The Record.�

1917 Chamber of Commerce notified that US Army will build a fighter pilot training base near the city

2006 City approves $90 million bond issue, paving the way new lakefront promenade, Ryan St. Streetscape Project and more

1868 first election held in Lake Charles

1912 Imperial Calcasieu delegates divide ten wards into four smaller parishes

1964 I-210 Bridge opened at a cost of 18 million


1876 first public schools of Imperial Calcasieu Parish open

1920 FDR comes to Lake Charles for a five-day hunting trip in Cameron

1957 First Contraband Days festival

1962 Lake Charles Airport officially opened

1972 Lake CharlesCivic Center opened. The project cost $16 million and 1,000 to 1,500 attended the formal dedication

1993 Williie Mount elected first female mayor

1993 Players International opens riverboat casino in Lake Charles

2017 after 17 years of service (the longest in Lake Charles history), Mayor Randy Roach ends his term of service

May 2017

1879 railroad locomotive first arrives in Lake Charles

1882 First Mardi Gras parade in Lake Charles

1933 Charleston Hotel starts first legal liquor sales

1880 Lake Charles bans hogs from running loose on town streets

1881 Jacob Ryan and sons open a new steam rice mill

1939 Lake Charles Junior College, now McNeese, opens

1942 Toni Jo Henry is convicted of murder and the only female executed by electrocution in the history of the state

1976 Burton Coliseum built

1983 Calcasieu Marine Tower (now Capital One Building) opened

1979 Nov. 30, 1978 City Hall moves to the Pioneer Building Lake Charles Fireman stage the city’s first strike by public employees

1993 Robert Olen Butler, Jr. and Tony Kushner won Pulitzer Prizes for fiction and drama, respectively

2017 Lake Charles celebrates th 150 Anniversary

May 2017




Early Years

Early Settlers by Brett Downer

The area’s earliest inhabitants were members of Atakapa tribe. If the region was forbidding to reach, it was ideal upon arrival — with plentiful water, a rich variety of fish and game, and eagles soaring in the Gulf-warmed breeze. Native Americans left behind pots, arrowheads, beads, and shells as evidence of their presence. The first non-native settlers in the area were the LeBleus of Bordeaux, France, who arrived locally in 1781. They had emigrated to Virginia just before America sought independence in 1776 and, seeking greater freedom of their own, traveled down the continent and settled just a few miles from present-day Lake Charles. Other hardy folk followed. One was Charles Sallier, who married Catherine LeBleu. They built a log cabin along the waterl — and the area nickname “Charlie’s Lake” arose. The two would be the ancestors of a large group of Salliers, LeBleus, and Heberts. The Barbe, Rosteet, and Moss families also have Sallier ties. By mid-19th century, the area was known as “Charles Town” and “Charleston.” Also, English, French, Spanish, and Dutch settlers favored land near the Rio Hondo. The waterway was called Quelqueshue (“Crying Eagle”) by Native Americans and is now known as the Calcasieu. Among those plying the waters was pirate/privateer Jean Lafitte. Though it’s never been proven he buried his plunder here, the name Contraband Bayou remains. The area’s timber propelled Jacob Ryan to early dominance in the lumber industry. He would later be rivaled by Capt. Daniel Goos, who created a dock and a lumber mill. On March 7, 1861, the growing area was incorporated as Charleston. The town became the parish seat and pioneer Samuel Kirby helped to transfer the jail and courthouse here. Charleston got a name change on March 16, 1867, when it was re-incorporated as Lake Charles.

Early Home Construction by Adley Cormier

The very earliest homes in Lake Charles were rough hewn cypress and pine cabins, and none of those buildings remain. However, there are many examples of the types of houses built with saw milled lumber. By some counts, there are over 400 sawmill town-type houses from simple shotgun houses to grand mansions in Lake Charles’ historic districts, most built using pattern-books by skilled carpenters. In fact, the French word for carpenter, Charpentier, is used to identify our historic district and honor those early builders. The straight, strong, and durable lumber processed in the area allowed for a great variety of construction types, from very heavy beams and timbers to the use of the so-called “balloon frames” that set wall studs directly on raised sills, to the still popular “platform framing” that uses standardized building materials. Published pattern books were commonly available at hardware stores, lumber companies, and other sites. Some were a form of advertisement showing how their windows, doors, nails, millwork, and other products could be used by competent crafts persons to build houses. Other pattern books held bits and pieces of popular designs and were used by the builders themselves as a tool for prospective home owning customers. Here in Lake Charles, because we literally had no architects, the carpenter-craftsman offered options from his books of patterns for houses, and customers would say,“I’d like that porch, or I want those windows, but use this other type door.” It’s the reason you see common elements in vastly different looking houses. 16


The Great Fire of 1910 expanded Lake Charles outward and encouraged the building of homes with side and front yards to help resist the spread of fire. Outside burning was generally banned. Firefighting resources were improved. Roofs were to be of metal and other less flammable materials. Wood stoves and fireplaces were replaced by coal, and later by gas and by electric power. By World War II, the threat of fire was much reduced, but by then, so were the original pine and cypress forests which had provided the building materials for much of early Lake Charles. Post-war Lake Charles was, and continues to be, built using a full range of architecturally available products, materials, styles, and designs. Since the pivotal year of 2005 when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita changed the builders’ focus from fire to water and flood management, an amazing variety of housing options is being made available for developers and individual homeowners, to include townhomes, condos, single family homes, and duplexes. May 2017

HONOR & PRAISE GOD in all ways St. Louis Catholic High School, the only Catholic high school in Southwest Louisiana, was founded in 1970 by its parent institutions, St. Charles Academy, Sacred Heart High School, and Landry Memorial. St. Louis Catholic has a long-standing tradition thanks to the culture, Catholicity, teachers, families, and alumni of the school. St. Louis Catholic High School is rooted in Catholicism and integrates Christian values in all aspects of our students’ education. SLC offers an exemplary academic program that differentiates instruction and prepares students to be twenty-first century thinkers. St. Louis Catholic supports its students with technology, facilities, resources, and a dedicated faculty that create the very best opportunities for success in life beyond high school. Our Saints have a wide range of opportunities to explore their gifts. Students can choose from twenty-six clubs/organizations and fifteen sports. As a Catholic school, we continue the ministry of Jesus the “Master Teacher” in the twenty-first century. Theology classes, school Masses, service opportunities, and retreat programs give our students the opportunity to learn more about their faith and to develop their relationship with God. Call for a tour and see what the “Saint Life” is all about!

May 2017

1620 Bank Street | Lake Charles, LA 70601 (337) 436-7275 | Thrive Thrive



The 1911 City Hall and Historic Calcasieu Courthouse

by Adley Cormier

These classically designed buildings bookend the Public Square at Ryan St. and Kirby. They are the city’s and the parish’s great architectural souvenirs of the recovery from the 1910 Great Fire. Designed by trophy architects Favrot and Livaudais, the buildings were crafted to replace their predecessors which were lost in that fire. The 1911 City Hall, named for the year it opened, has a famously ornate clock tower and Italianate style wings on a raised terrace. It served for over 65 years as the center of civic government. By 1979, the city had literally outgrown the space and a move of many city offices was made to the Pioneer Building, leaving only a few offices and departments in place. A plan was drafted to reuse the structure for City Court, but access, parking, and security requirements would have required additional radical changes to the old building and that plan was shelved. The upgraded building however found new life as an arts and cultural center that offers citizens and visitors revolving exhibitions and programs on three floors of galleries. The Historic Calcasieu Courthouse across Ryan Street is perhaps the best known of all buildings in Southwest Louisiana. It has a distinctive copper dome, a grand portico entrance on the Ryan Street façade and a

The 1911 City Hall is one of the architectural souvenirs of the recovery from the Great Fire. Three floors of galleries provide opportunities for cultural enrichment.


richly storied history. It is the fifth building to serve as the seat of justice; the first—the Marion Courthouse—having been relocated (and some people still say, stolen) to this site in 1852. That transplanted Courthouse was replaced in a few years by a wooden two story structure. In 1891 the parish opened an entirely new Empire-style Courthouse. Rapid growth of the parish required a large annex in 1902 on the Ryan St. side, more than doubling the size (and the length) of the Courthouse. The DoubleCourthouse was the one that burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1910. The two white cornerstones on the grounds of today’s Courthouse are the ones from the Double-Courthouse that burned. The designers of the Historic Calcasieu Courthouse drew from classical and renaissance architecture to craft this icon. Many symbolic details enliven both the exterior and interior spaces. Work to upgrade the facility in the 1990’s is distinct and separate from the original authentic features that remain. The great space of Courtroom “A” is one of the most accurate historic interiors of any courtroom in Louisiana. While many day-to-day activities are conducted in the Calcasieu Judicial Center, the Historic Courthouse still houses working parish offices and is the center for ceremonial and special occasions.

The Historic Calcasieu Courthouse is the fifth structure to serve, starting with the “stolen” Marion Courthouse brought to Lake Charles in 1852 by Samuel Kirby and Jacob Ryan.


May 2017

City Hall

City Hall has a distinct mid-century energy with the bands of green slate and buff brick.

The current ten-story City Hall at the southwest corner of Pujo and Bilbo Sts. downtown started life as an office tower built by oil wildcatters Mordello Vincent and Lee Welch in 1948. Designed by local architects Dunn and Quinn, the tower features a base of fossilized limestone and horizontal bands of green slate and buff brick, along with bronze-clad windows. The building design was advanced for its time. There is a distinct mid-century vibe to its robust Prairie-style exterior. For a good part of its early life, the Pioneer Building, as Vincent and Welch called it, was the center for oil exploration companies, engineering firms, and professionals in Southwest Louisiana. The top floor housed the Pioneer Club, an exclusive members-only organization for professionals and civic leaders. The site hosted many glittering events including a speaking engagement by then Senator and Mrs. John F. Kennedy as a prelude to his successful presidential campaign. In the late 1970’s, with the 1911 City Hall near bursting with city offices, the pragmatic decision was made to purchase and reuse the Pioneer Building to convert it over time to City Hall. Early on, city offices moved in as the leases for tenant companies expired. The Pioneer Club relocated to what is now the Chase Bank Building, then Lakeside Bank. By 1979, the City was ready to cut the ribbon on “new City Hall.” Renovations and improvements to the near 70 year old building have been ongoing. The most recent improvements to City Hall have been upgrades to City Council Chambers with improved seating and communication technology. Most city departments are located in this building as well as the office for the Mayor and for members of City Council. This mid-century icon serves as a symbol of the City and anchors a successful row of privately- owned buildings on Pujo Street. The commitment to reuse an existing building for civic needs was good public stewardship. The move helped keep downtown alive as well as saving tax money over funding entirely new construction at that scale. The city’s example pioneered adaptive reuse in Southwest Louisiana and demonstrated that the old can be new again.

a rc h i te c t 414 Pujo Street | Lake Charles, LA 70601 • 337.439.8400

We are pleased to join with the City of Lake Charles in celebrating our anniversaries. We are celebrating 20 years of business while the city is celebrating 150 years of incorporation. We look forward to continuing a great future here and join with everyone in wishing Lake Charles another fabulous 150 years.

May 2017




The Lake Charles Civic Center The brainchild of then mayor James Sudduth is the Lake Charles Civic Center and grounds. The project was designed in the late 1960’s and opened in 1972. A massive undertaking, the City filled in over 60 acres of lake, completely changing what had been a working waterfront for over 130 years. In addition, the nearly 90,000 square foot Civic Center building was constructed along with acres of free parking in an effort to provide suburban style convenience to a convention center with arena, theater, and meeting rooms. It was, at the time, a revolutionary concept and was one of the earliest civic complexes of its type in the South.

The Civic Center building itself was designed in a vaguely International style with two wings converging on an entrance and service core. Early in the design process, vehicular approach ramps which would have allowed passengers to be discharged on the concourse floor level were eliminated. In addition, what would have been two theater spaces were merged into one grand opera-house style auditorium. The viewing concourse is now generally unused, but the structure itself hosts thousands of events, and hundreds of thousands of citizens use the building for everything from Mardi Gras balls to gun shows. Recent interior upgrades have made the building more useful and comfortable. The lakeside rooms have floor to ceiling windows that provide smashing views of the lake and bridge, however some event planners decry that the space is not as technologically up-to-date as other more recent facilities in the area. And many events opt for spaces that offer hotel accommodations and restaurant opportunities on site which the current Civic Center does not provide. Under Downtown Developement Authority and City Council direction, the grounds of the facility have been greatly enhanced with the Lakeside Promenade, the Marina, the Bord-du-lac Splashpark, landscaping and fountains, and even interactive light towers. The outdoor spaces are nearly in constant use for festivals, fairs, pageants, and exhibitions. The Civic Center is a 45 year old civic icon that has helped shape the character of Southwest Louisiana.

Central School for the Arts and Humanities The great three-story building, which opened in 1912, replaced an earlier 19th century Central School on the same block. Favrot and Livadais were the architects of this Charpentier District landmark, however this was not a replacement for a school lost to fire -- in fact, much of the old Central was salvaged and used to build houses in the surrounding blocks. The City School Board of the time needed to expand and upgrade education, and used this opportunity to replace the old wooden Ward Schools with newer and larger buildings. Central was the Ward Three primary school and the upper elementary/junior high for the entire city. When the building was deemed obsolete for education and was threatened with demolition in the 1990’s, the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society (CHPS) and community leaders urged citizens to pass a temporary sales tax to purchase and upgrade the facility so that it could be a center for the arts and humanities. Under the late Ben Mount and his wife, then Mayor Willie Mount, the great old building which had educated thousands of Lake Charles citizens, was rescued for a new life and purpose. Currently, the facility houses the Literacy Council, Community Band, and conference and meeting rooms on its ground floor; on the second floor are the Mardi Gras Museum, Ben Mount Theatre, galleries for Black Heritage and for Art Associates, and workspaces for the Symphony and Arts Council. The Third Floor houses individual artist spaces and studios, theatre spaces, and art production spaces, and offices for cultural organizations including the CHPS. It’s a well visited and well-used facility at the center of the arts and humanities regionally, and hosts close to 600 events, performances, exhibitions, and conferences yearly.



May 2017

Original Walnut Grove

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310 N. Louise St. Jennings, LA 337.824.6531

From the late 1800s through 1926, there was a scenic gathering place along the Calcasieu riverfront in Lake Charles called Walnut Grove. Now there’s a new Walnut Grove, very near the original location. Walnut Grove, a Traditional Neighborhood Development, features a mix of homes, businesses, and beautifully landscaped green spaces inspired by traditional architectural elements of our region, creating a community that looks like it evolved naturally over time. Many of the streets and parks of Walnut Grove were named in honor of people and places that impacted our city and in meaningful ways. Walnut Grove brings forth a revival of the spirit of community which our city was built around. Learn more about the history of Walnut Grove and the vibrant new development at

Walnut Grove, TND

Contraband Estuary and Boardwalk

The Great Lawn & Lawton Building

West Sallier Street

Call (337) 497-0825 for information on Walnut Grove. May 2017






Like most 19th and 20th century communities, churches were often the center of a family’s social life. Featured here are but a few examples of Lake Charles’ earliest churches. by Austin Price

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is one of the most iconic buildings in downtown Lake Charles. Most residents would recognize it on sight, even if they had never been inside the structure. It is so much a part of the city, it often feels timeless, bound inextricably with Lake Charles and its history. Despite popular impression, though, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as we recognize it was built nearly fifty years after the Immaculate Conception Parish was established in 1869. Originally, a small church dedicated to St. Francis de Sales was erected across from the courthouse on Ryan St. in 1858, but was demolished after a bout of deaths caused by Yellow Fever, and replaced by a church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in October of 1881. This new church stood for less than thirty years before it was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1910.



In 1913, the familiar Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was constructed by New Orleans architects Favrot & Livaudai (the same team responsible for designing the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse and the Calcasieu Marine Bank). Decades later, in January 1980, Pope John Paul II deemed it the cathedral of the newly established Diocese of Lake Charles. While it was never intended to serve the dual-roles of the central church for the entire diocese and the bureaucratic center for the Diocese’s administration that all cathedrals must, its central location, distinctive architecture, and historical significance marked the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception as the ideal place to establish the Bishop’s seat. It was later added to the U.S. National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Pope Benedict XVI personally blessed the statue of Mary that stands at the Cathedral’s heart, affirming the wisdom of John Paul II’s decision. Few buildings capture not only the history of Lake Charles but so much of its beauty as well.

May 2017

New Sunlight Baptist Church: Sunday Services … and Public Service by Brett Downer

New Sunlight Baptist Church has long shown what one church can do — because the Rev. V.E. Washington practiced what he preached. As a prominent pastor and front-line civil rights activist, Washington elevated New Sunlight to being a leading house of worship — and a center of achievement in civic matters. Washington became pastor of New Sunlight in 1951. He soon went about organizing a multitude of opportunities for people to not only hear the Word, but to live by it. New Sunlight’s leader organized the local Baptist Youth Week Observance, a week-long series of recreation, study, fellowship, and worship. He was the first African-American to teach at the Seminary Southern Baptist extension. Statewide, he became the first president of the Louisiana Baptist Youth Encampment. His top priorities, though, were the people he ministered to on Sundays and their well-being in the community. In the 1960s, Washington joined others to work for equal access to public transit, lunch counters, and buses in Lake Charles. He led efforts toward the desegregation of public schools. In 1970, he became the first AfricanAmerican elected to the Calcasieu Parish School Board, serving 16 years. Carolyn Alyce Washington, the pastor’s wife, helped organize the board for the New Sunlight Baptist Church Day Care Center — the first licensed daycare in Southwest Louisiana. She served as director of the Lake Charles Area-Wide Youth Week Observance for many years. She also was the first African-American to be appointed to the local Camp Fire board of directors. The church also offered Sunlight Manor, a 130unit low-income housing facility. The New Sunlight story is intertwined with a multitude of efforts that extended beyond its community of faith.

“Nurturing All Children and Achieving Academic Success in the Spirit of Christ” Pre-K4 – 8th Grade Excellent Student/Teacher Ratio Participant in Education in Virtues Program Diverse Student Body Morning, Noon, Afternoon Prayer & Weekly Liturgy Special Education Services

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St. Margaret Catholic School welcomes all children regardless of race, creed, or nationality.

May 2017




Temple Sinai by Austin Price

Though constructed in 1904, Temple Sinai, Lake Charles’ only major synagogue, has a story that began nearly a quarter of a century before its construction and which, in many ways, traces the story of Lake Charles’ Jewish community. Before1879, there was no Jewish community in Lake Charles. Only with the arrival of Leopold Kaufman and David Block and their success in the community did the Jewish people find a place for themselves in the still growing town. As the Jewish population grew, bolstered by immigrants from Kaufman’s native Alsace, Kaufman and seventeen other major community members joined together in 1894 to found and then preside over the Lake Charles Hebrew Association. Initially, they held their services and gatherings at Enterprise Hall and the local Masonic Lodge. A decade later, they built the Byzantine-styled Temple Sinai. Three years later, the community was officially chartered as Temple Sinai. Early members of the congregation included Rabbi Isidor Warsaw, vice-president Issac Reinauer, and, of course, the omnipresent Leopold Kaufman as president. Like most historical buildings in the region, the synagogue has undergone numerous changes. The devastating hurricane of 1918 destroyed the onion domes which distinguished the original building. These were never replaced. A donation of land in 1929 allowed the temple to expand, and in 1947, the interior underwent a significant remodel. Interestingly, Temple Sinai was the first house of worship in Lake Charles to have an organ installed. Though it may seem an isolated pocket of the larger Lake Charles community, Temple Sinai is a vital element of Lake Charles’ history and culture that has stood strong over a century.

803 West McNeese Street Lake Charles, LA 70605 337.478.4433



May 2017



Lake Charles Holds the Key to Our Hearts

For over 25 years, CENTURY 21 Bessette Realty, Inc. has been a key player in the growth of Lake Charles, as we helped our residential and commercial clients navigate the city’s expanding real estate market. Our team of experienced agents have won numerous awards for superior service, sales excellence and community involvement, and we’re ready to help you unlock the door to your future.

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Business & Industry

Lake Charles


by Frank DiCesare

Long before Southwest Louisiana’s petrochemical companies opened for business, the greater Lake Charles area was a logging community. From the mid 1850s through the mid 20th century, the area’s bald cypress and longleaf pine trees played a large role in growing the local economy and gave rise to what is known today as the Charpentier District. But a region fueled by lumber cannot survive without modern transportation. Enter the railroads. By 1880, Lake Charles brought in country produce from Lacassine via the Louisiana Western Railroad. More than 800 freight cars passed through Lake Charles in October 1880. The logging industry hit the rails in the late 19th century and early 20th century when the Kansas City Southern Railroad and the Louisiana & Pacific Railway started operations. The KCS completed a line from Shreveport to Lake Charles, as well as to Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, in 1897. The L&P Railway was chartered in 1904 and, at its peak, boasted a network of more than 130 miles of track. The railway linked Lake Charles to DeRidder, Bundicks, Lilly Junction, Walla, Longville, Fayette, and other small lumber towns. Early in its operation, however, the L&P sold nearly 45 miles of its track to the Southern Pacific, which, in turn, renamed the line the Lake Charles & Northern Railroad. In 1925, the KSC erected its Lake Charles terminal at the corner of Lawrence (now Pryce) and Ryan St. The terminal replaced the old Union Station, which was located at the intersection of Front and Pryce Sts. The Watkins Railway (later Iron Mountain) and the Missouri Pacific also traveled through Lake Charles. The Missouri Pacific station was located at the corner of Ryan and Clarence Sts. and had rails along the avenues near Broad Street. The railroad also traveled into North Lake Charles and throughout Southwest Louisiana. Today, rail service to Lake Charles is available via Amtrak’s Sunset Limited line, which makes tri-weekly stops at the Lake Charles station, located at 100 Ryan St. Opened in late 1999, the station is a replacement for the original Texas & Orleans Railroad station, which was located on South Railroad Avenue between Bilbo and Hodges Sts. The station was destroyed in a fire in 1984.

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May 2017

LUMBER: As trees fall, town’s fortunes rise

by Brett Downer

Pine and cypress fueled the first major industry in the area — an opportunity pioneered by Jacob Ryan. Ryan settled on 150-plus acres of land along the lake in the early 1800s. He built the first sawmill in town — near the place where Broad St. and Lakeshore Dr. now intersect. “Lumber was the town’s reason to exist,” the Louisiana Preservation Alliance (LPA) has noted. “Without lumber, there would not have been the basic natural resources that early settlers knew how to refine into finished products necessary to develop the town’s economy.” From the 1820s to the mid-1850s, longleaf yellow pine was the key feedstock of the local economy. Capt. Daniel Goos came to the area and, in 1855, built a competing sawmill. Looking beyond in-town commerce, he also built ships and a local dock — and undertook trade with Galveston. Lumber demands after the Civil War boosted local fortunes. Additional sawmills were built by newcomers such as Rudolph Krause from Germany, and the King and Weber families from Kansas. “The 1880s saw the small sawmill village develop into a boom town,” according to the LPA. The sawmills are long gone, but their work can still be seen today — by walking through the Charpentier District, where the now-restored homes were crafted from local stock.

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337-564-6763 • 4447 Nelson Road @GiftsAndGrinds May 2017




AGRICULTURE: You send it, we’ll vend it by Brett Downer



With Southwest Louisiana agriculture, surrounding farmers did the producing and Lake Charles did the shipping and handling. “Sugar and rice will be great the money field crops,” the Lake Charles American gushed in 1891. “Quite a number of our farmers have small fields of cane which they will sell to the millers, and many others will soon be raising cane in this region.” By the end of the 19th century, Calcasieu Parish grew nearly one-sixth of all the rice in America. The Lake Charles Rice Mill opened in 1892 to help process it. The milling plant was billed as the world’s largest of its kind. It had 120,000 square feet of floor space and a daily capacity of 3,500 barrels of rice. The commodity was precious and profitable. In 1891, when a barge bearing 250 sacks of rice sank in a bayou, efforts were attempted to re-float the wreck — to recover the valuable cargo. The Wall Rice Mill also operated in Lake Charles, contributing to the immense tonnage carried by the railroads. Sugar cane also sweetened local fortunes. When the Calcasieu Sugar Co. factory opened in 1891 along the Kansas City Watkins & Gulf Railway, it was one of the top factories in the South for its equipment alone. The old “open kettle” process was slow and inefficient, producing about 100 pounds of sugar per ton of cane. The factory could yield three times as much sugar per ton. Also, the Lake Charles Sugar Co. was producing some 3 million pounds of sugar per year by the turn of the century. Other agriculture also made for noteworthy local businesses — such as the Micelle Meat Packing Plant, which operated at the west end of Sallier St. for years.

May 2017

Port One-hundred fifty years ago, the city of Lake Charles was born. While the skyline has changed, our optimism, ambition, and foresight have not changed since 1867. Just as it is today, the local economy during the late 1800s surged. Commerce moved on the waterways. The lumber industry boomed and agriculture thrived. “During the early years of our city’s history, marine transportation was vital to our region’s growth from a scarcely populated wilderness to an economic corridor,” said Bill Rase, executive director of the Port of Lake Charles. “Today, the Port of Lake Charles and the Calcasieu Ship Channel continue to be our region’s major economic driver.” In 2016, the Port of Lake Charles celebrated its 90th anniversary and the Calcasieu Ship Channel -in its present form—turned 75. For decades, these two keystones to our community have greatly influenced Lake Charles’ growth. Lake Charles has been a port of call since the early 1800s for sailing vessels navigating the shallow river to pick up cargoes of lumber. In the late 1800s, business and community leaders petitioned the War Department in Washington for a deeper channel to move traffic on the Calcasieu River. Their pleas went unheeded. As early as May 18, 1879, the New Orleans Picayune, in an article titled “Lake Charles Proposed as Port of Entry,” wrote of plans for the Lake Charles area to become a mecca for oceangoing vessels. Congress authorized a deputy harbor tax collector for Lake Charles in 1880, but one did not arrive until 10 years later. May 2017

Lake Charles By the turn of the century, the lumber industry was declining and being replaced by a rapidly growing rice industry. The decline in the lumber industry here came about in part because of the lack of marine transportation on the Calcasieu River. Sandbars made the river impassable to all but shallow-draft schooners. The lumber industry dropped, but the booming rice industry still created a need for waterborne transportation from Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico. Lake Charles citizens in 1922 approved a $2.75 million bond issue to deepen the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from the Sabine River to the Calcasieu River and widen the Calcasieu River from the Intracoastal Canal to Lake Charles to a depth of 30 feet and a bottom width of 125 feet.“It’s amazing to think that Calcasieu Parish citizens in the 1920s had the foresight to tax themselves in order to create something that will benefit generations to come.” By Act 67 of the Louisiana Legislature of 1924, the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District was authorized. This authority was confirmed by constitutional amendment the same year. Enabling legislation authorized the District to call bond elections and to raise funds for the construction, operation, and maintenance of port facilities. “History was made that day,” said Rase. “The Port of Lake Charles was born, and Lake Charles became an epicenter of maritime trade.” On April 2, 1926, the S.S. Sewalls Point tied up at the Kelly-Weber docks in Lake Charles to Thrive

discharge 8,205 tons of fertilizer and canned goods with a value of $102,837.56. The Sewalls Point was the first oceangoing vessel to bring cargo to the newly authorized Port. Construction of facilities for the emerging Port was still underway and the official opening was months away, but Lake Charles business and community leaders hailed this as the beginning of a new era of prosperity for the Lake Area—an era that would see the growth of seagoing vessels steaming up the ship channel to the dock in Lake Charles. An even wider and deeper channel was in demand as local industry continued to boom, and Congress appropriated $9.2 million for channel dredging and construction of the Calcasieu jetties in 1938. As a result, the Calcasieu Ship Channel was dredged from Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico 34 miles south, and the channel reached a depth of 33 feet and a width of 250 feet. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the channel was expanded to 40 feet deep and 400 feet wide, the current federal mandate. Today the Port of Lake Charles is ranked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the 11th busiest port district in the nation, based on cargo tonnage. With the discovery of major natural gas resources in the U.S., a massive surge of industrial projects rose to engage in natural gas liquefaction and exportation, and an efficient pipeline infrastructure in the region that would deliver natural gas sweetened the deal. Progress continues at a brisk pace, and the Port’s growth matches the region’s growth.



Banking in Lake Charles — Noted deposits and famous withdrawals over the years by Brett Downer

The Calcasieu Marine building at 844 Ryan St. is straight out of Central Casting for a bank: a three-story, neo-classical limestone facade; a lobby with neck-craning Corinthian pillars, each topped with an eagle; and a vault with a 21-inch-thick door, lest flame or fraudsters get ideas. The showpiece, then called Calcasieu National Bank of Southwest Louisiana, opened in 1928 with Roaring Twenties fanfare. The stock market crashed the following year. By the middle of the Great Depression, business baron W.T. Burton largely reimbursed the depositors who’d been wiped out — about 75 cents on the dollar, far more than the dime-adollar payouts often proffered. A half-century later, the bank’s descendant, Calcasieu Marine, operated on the lakefront from the tallest building in town. The CM Tower has since changed names, but not bragging rights. Compare present-day banking in Lake Charles with, say, the era right before the Great Fire of 1910. Back then, the city had four financial institutions: Calcasieu National Bank, First National Bank of Lake Charles, Lake Charles National Bank, and Calcasieu Trust & Savings. Others have come and gone over the years: National Bank of Commerce, Metro Federal Savings & Loan, and, most notably, Lakeside National Bank — which ruled the southeast corner of Broad and Lakeshore until a 1995 merger. The Lakeside name was revived in 2010 and a 21st-century version operates today. There are no “Calcasieu” or “Calcasieu Marine” banks anymore, of course. The 1928 bank building, though, is fully restored with adaptive reuse as a special-events complex. As for W.T. Burton — the businessman, associate of Gov. Huey P. Long, and philanthropist . . . he’s honored with a statue outside Burton Coliseum and a permanent place in regional history.



May 2017

AMERICAN PRESS: Town’s top discussion-starter endures by Brett Downer

The venerable American Press still puts out a paper every morning. As Lake Charles’ longest-running news source, it remains a fixture for local news, sports, and advertising—and columnists like Scooter Hobbs and Jim Beam, who’s now past the half-century mark at the paper. The paper began as a weekly publication that stepped up its printing schedule in 1895 and became the Daily Press. It merged with the Daily American in 1910 to become the Lake Charles Daily American-Press. The chief newspaper barons in the earliest days were Joseph F. Reed and Guy Beatty. The Press has long been owned by the family of Thomas B. Shearman Sr., who bought the newspaper in 1943 and moved to town to run it. Members of his family have owned and operated the Press since then. In an earlier era, the chief muckraker at the Press was managing editor Ken Dixon. His spirited coverage of illegal gambling and public corruption in the 1950s defined the paper’s independent stance – while his “Charley Lake Says” column offered tart, tongue-in-cheek commentary on the locals and their shenanigans. Over the years, the paper has earned national acclaim for Sam Guillory’s photography of a military plane crash, Don Kingery’s coverage of the 1976 Jupiter plant violence, Hector San Miguel’s investigative reporting on a multitude of topics, Bobby Dower’s encyclopedic coverage of McNeese sports, Shawn Martin’s groundbreaking stories on gambling -- and the staff’s coverage of disastrous Hurricane Rita, when the paper went all-digital for days . . . because nobody was home to pick up their morning paper. May 2017


Strong Roots Create Strong Growth

For 150 years, Lake Charles has grown from the original seeds of settlement planted along the Calcasieu River to the leading center of economic growth in the country. Landscape Management Services congratulates the city on reaching this impressive milestone, and we’re proud to have been a part of that growth for the past 25 years. Since 1991, we have established a reputation as one of Southwest Louisiana’s leading residential, municipal and commercial landscape installation and maintenance companies. Our growth is the result of our commitment to quality, integrity, and service in all that we do.

Happy 150th Birthday, Lake Charles. Keep Growing Strong!

5005 Cobra Road in Lake Charles | (337) 478-3836 M–F: 7am – 4pm | Sat: 8am – 2pm (Seasonal Hours) Thrive


Natural Gas: Industry on the Lake Charles side of the river by Brett Downer

The petrochemical giants of the area are the economic crown jewels of Lake Charles’ West Calcasieu neighbors — but there’s an industrial presence on this side of the river, too. Lake Charles LNG is a liquefied natural gas import terminal in South Lake Charles. The city’s place in regional natural gas efforts spans 40 years. In 1977, the former Federal Power Commission authorized the construction and operation of a terminal in Lake Charles to receive, store, and re-gasify LNG imported from Algeria. The facility opened as Trunkline LNG and imported its first deliveries in 1982. It has long boasted world-class capacity and a turnaround basin that mega-ships can negotiate — but its fortunes have floated with global natural gas prices. In 1983, a weak market forced the plant into near-dormancy as LNG deliveries were suspended. Deliveries resumed in 1989. Trunkline LNG completed a terminal expansion in 2006 that increased its sendout capacity to 1.8 billion cubic feet per day. The expansion also included additional unloading capabilities at the terminal’s second dock. Today, there’s a global demand for LNG vessels to move the product, and the terminal is one of the places these ships are looking to go. As for the West Calcasieu refineries, chemical plants, and other installations that have been a local presence since the 1930s, there’s a deeper economic connection to Lake Charles than one might think. West Cal plants — and most of their employees — pay property tax and other levies in Calcasieu Parish. Tax revenues that make their way to institutions and services within Lake Charles — such as Calcasieu Parish public schools in the city — represent a direct benefit on this side of the river. Additionally, plant employees who commute from Lake Charles spend a considerable amount of their industry paycheck in their home city, another direct benefit.



May 2017

May 2017






Hospitals added in 20th century by Brett Downer

Feeling sick in the 1880s? Dr. Elisha Lyons Clement was among the first doctors to make house calls. Doctors stayed busy in booming late-19th century Lake Charles. Dr. T.H. Watkins, Dr. Abram H. Moss, Dr. Erastus Lyons, and Dr. C.L. Richardson were among the leading physicians who practiced in the ever-growing city near the turn of the century. However, by the early 1900s, Lake Charles still had no hospital. Two people set out to change that. One was Dr. John G. Martin, the surgeon who settled in Lake Charles and served as president of the medical society. The other was Rev. Hubert Cramers, the rector of Immaculate Conception Church. Martin and Cramers secured the help of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Galveston to establish St. Patrick’s Sanitarium, a three-story facility with 50 rooms. It was dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day in 1908. The facility later became St. Patrick Hospital and, eventually, CHRISTUS St. Patrick. Lake Charles Memorial Hospital would follow in 1952. It was built off Oak Park Boulevard and was originally equipped with 100 beds. The site, which has seen multiple expansions — a new wing in 1958, a larger ER and other needs in 1970, and expanded services in the decades since then — remains the system’s main campus.

Dr. Elisha Lyons Clement making a house call.


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May 2017

Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in the early years.

Construction of a charity hospital for the city began in 1958 just east of McNeese State College. The facility was renamed Walter O. Moss Regional Hospital in 1979 as a tribute to its chief surgeon. Changes in state funding and healthcare priorities led to it becoming a medical center and now Moss Memorial Health Clinic, part of the Lake Charles Memorial Health System. Other hospitals have included Humana (now Lake Area Medical Center) and Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women.

May 2017




Muller’s embodied Lake Charles’ entrepreneurial spirit by Brett Downer

Lake Charles residents of a certain age can still sing the jingles for Muller’s Department Store, the multi-story marvel with the clackety elevator. People went to Muller’s for fashions, for lunch, for Christmas . . . for fun. No store before or since resonated with city shoppers like Muller’s did. The life force of the store was Julie Muller (Marx), who was widowed young and had a talent for dressmaking. Muller’s opened in 1882 — across the street, actually — with a millinery and dress business. She married Simon Marx, and he and two of her sons would run the store in succession until 1964. In 1913, Muller’s moved into the three-story structure that still stands today. In 1972, now under non-family management, Muller’s was given an extensive renovation. That same year, however, Prien Lake Mall opened near Interstate 210 — and immediately, steadily, pulled shoppers south. The city tried to rejuvenate downtown by limiting traffic and creating walking spaces. It didn’t succeed. By 1975, even Muller’s had a satellite store at the mall. A decade later, Muller’s was gone for good. Today’s rejuvenated downtown — with Muller’s renovated into living spaces and surrounded by new businesses — displays the spirit seen 36


in Lake Charles’ earliest years. In the 1870s and 1880s, J.W. Bryan’s store had everything from household goods to buggies. It was the era when merchants like Leopold Kaufman came to town. His Cheap Cash Store had a roof over the frontage sidewalk and wide steps that doubled as a resting bench. He would go on to help organize First National Bank in 1889 and own multiple downtown properties. David Reims offered meat, sausage, and produce at his Lake Charles Market. The Lake Charles Railways, Light and Water Company was an all-encompassing necessity — and had an ice plant, too. Folks might stop in at spots like the Gem Bar & Billiard Saloon to blow off steam. Isaac Reinauer of Germany had a clothing store. Adolph Meyer was a pioneer pharmacist. J.B. Watkins was a banker, a businessman, and a master marketer. The Bel family supplied the city with the materials for progress. The New Drug Co. was, once, new. Throughout the 20th century as well, entrepreneurial spirit was seen in all corners of Lake Charles, ranging from Pryce’s Pharmacy to the Taussig, Cagle, Seibarth and Bolton auto dealerships — and from Bevo’s and Bookworm’s Apple to the mid-city Cottage Shops. May 2017

Pryce’s Pharmacy Three generations have owned and operated Pryce’s Pharmacy for over 100 years. Pryce’s was the first minority-owned business in Lake Charles. Dr. George Pryce founded the pharmacy at the corner of Lawrence St. and Enterprise Blvd. in 1908. He handed the business down to his son, Dr. Ulric Pryce, who handed it down to his son, Frank Pryce. In addition to medications and health needs, the store also sold a wide variety of newspapers, ice cream, and assorted sundries. Mr. Pryce recently made the decision to close the store, leaving a long legacy of serving the citizens of Lake Charles.

Lake Charles, Looking Good for


The Eye Clinic has been the largest provider of comprehensive family eye care in Southwest Louisiana for nearly 60 years. What began with just one physician in Lake Charles has grown into a multi-specialty practice with six locations, 11 doctors and over 100 employees. We’ve seen tremendous advancements in our city and in our field throughout our history, and we are proud to bring these advances in eye care to our patients. Continuous improvement in patient care will always be our focus. We congratulate Lake Charles on their anniversary and look forward to a long future of providing visionary care to the patients who live here.

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Lake Charles • Sulphur • Moss Bluff • DeRidder • Jennings May 2017





Early con


Ribbon cutting for

L’Auberge with loc al and state dignit


Lake Charles raises stakes as a destination city Two people couldn’t have been more pleased by the arrival of riverboat gaming to Lake Charles in 1993 -- Edwin Edwards and Merv Griffin. In time, much of the city would come to share the sentiment. Edwards, the freewheeling multi-term governor, had talked — and talked, and talked — about the jobs, tax revenues, and economic diversification that would come to Louisiana if we’d just bring gambling to the state. The idea had growing resonance with a public that had been scorched by the oil bust a decade earlier. Griffin, the talk-show host and game-show creator turned gaming mogul, greeted the long line gathered for the grand opening of Players Lake Charles, a riverboat casino parked in the shadow of the Calcasieu River Bridge. The place was so different, so new, that people paid an admission fee just to get on the boat. Once aboard, they found slot machines and table games in the manner of Las Vegas. That first boat opened 17 days before Christmas. Supporters of gaming say the Lake Charles casinos have been a gift that keeps on giving — for 23 years and counting, as Edwards might point out. Players would face competition from the Isle of Capri riverboat and hotel in neighboring Westlake, Delta Downs in West Calcasieu, and the sprawling Grand Casino Coushatta complex built on tribal land in Allen Parish. Players’ greatest challenge, though, would come from the law. Its local operators were penalized with the biggest fine in gaming history for their business practices and forced to sell. (Edwards also encountered unprecedented legal problems — a story already oft-told.) 38

ge. of L’Auber

by Brett Downer

Harrah’s took over the Lake Charles market from Players — but in 2005, Hurricane Rita tore the riverboat from its moorings and shoved it onto the lakefront grounds. Harrah’s forced the company to give up the ship — literally — and pulled out of Lake Charles. While those events are rather contemporary elements of the city’s 150-year history, they seem like another era. Today, Lake Charles is a full-on destination city, spurred by twin gaming titans. First came L’Auberge du Lac, a huge property that opened on land leased from the Port of Lake Charles. L’Auberge Casino Resort, as it’s now called, has 1,600 gaming machines. It now has a neighbor in the Golden Nugget, a Tilman Fertitta gambling resort peppered with the food offerings and amenities of his numerous Landry’s Inc. restaurant holdings. It, too, offers 1,600 gaming machines. Golf now goes hand-inhand with the Lake Charles casino experience. Twenty years ago, riverboat gaming in Lake Charles was in its fitful infancy. Forty years ago, you couldn’t have bought as much as a lottery ticket. Sixty years ago, illegal gambling was still rampant in the city’s outlying areas — such as the slot machines in the joints along U.S. 90 that operated with questionable oversight. Today, though, gaming produces thousands of jobs, billions in revenue, a newfound flood of visitors — and a crucial facet of the modern Lake Charles economy.


May 2017



All the Right Moves for

0 15 Years

The Center for Orthopaedics is proud to call Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana home. All of our doctors were born and raised in Louisiana and we have chosen to live and raise our families right here in a city that’s on the move. We’re also proud to be the region’s largest, independent musculoskeletal group. We’ve dedicated ourselves to bringing the latest technological advances to Southwest Louisiana so that our patients won’t have to leave home to get the care they need. After all, we want to keep our community healthy – it’s our home too. Congratulations from all the doctors and staff of Center for Orthopaedics.

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LOOKING FORWARD FOR 70 YEARS! Since 1947, we continue to grow with our customers and their families, providing local support and decision-making, banking products and innovation to those we serve. Today we have 24 locations across seven parishes committed to maximizing customer convenience. We bring you the latest technology through mobile and online banking, ensuring flexibility and convenient access to your accounts anytime from anywhere. Whether you want to pay for purchases with a click on your watch, check balances from your phone or bank online, we are excited about your future with us. For 70 years we have been Louisiana’s Community Bank™ – A state of mind. A culture. A community.




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May 2017

May 2017





Gerstner Field by Cory Conner



May 2017

At the beginning of World War I, America intended to stay out of the European conflict. However, after several aggressive actions taken by Germany, it became clear that U.S. interests were in danger. After America declared war on Germany in April 1917, the U.S. Army faced the monumental task of training the influx of recruits and began to rapidly construct training camps across the country, including camps designed to train soldiers on how a relatively new machine, the airplane, could be used in war. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce and elected officials, a prairie southeast of Lake Charles was selected as a site for a large training airfield in 1917. Construction of 24 hangers and near 100 support buildings commenced. The Army named the new airfield after Lt. Frederick Gerstner, the 18th army pilot to lose his life in a plane crash. Troops began to arrive at Gerstner Field, Louisiana’s first military airfield, in December of 1917. They soon realized there would be challenges living in such a remote area of southern Louisiana. Poor drainage throughout the base fostered an increased number of mosquitoes. Overpopulation forced numerous enlisted men to sleep in tents. Many men at the base hailed from northern states and suffered in the sweltering heat. The greatest challenge Gerstner Field endured was a devastating hurricane. On August 6, 1918, a category 3 hurricane made landfall in Cameron, La. and worked its way north toward Lake Charles. Without modern weather forecasting technology, the hurricane struck the airfield without warning. Some of the soldiers fled to Lake Charles for shelter. Others stayed at the base to ride out the storm. The hurricane completely destroyed eight hangers and the majority of the airplanes. Virtually all the buildings on the base sustained damage from the storm. Despite the devastation, most of the repairs were completed within a few months. Though Gerstner Field may not have been the easiest place to live, being stationed in Southwest Louisiana had its advantages. When pilots trained in their Curtis JN-4 biplanes in the skies over Calcasieu Parish, it was the first time many local residents had seen an airplane. Some area farmers created makeshift landing strips for pilots. In exchange for the entertainment of landing in their backyard, the farmers treated the pilots to some Cajun cooking.

Several achievements in military aviation were made at Gerstner Field including development of the first air ambulance and advancements in airplane radio communications. After the end of World War I, training operations were halted and the base was permanently closed in 1921. Today, only the concrete foundations of the airfield buildings remain. A historical marker at the corner of Old Camp Road and Highway 27 and the Gerstner Memorial Drive (a section of LA Hwy. 14) street signs serve as a reminder of the airfield.

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Lake Charles’ First Military Presence by Cory Conner

Many Lake Charles residents are likely familiar with Chennault Air Force Base and Gerstner Field. However, they may not have heard of Cantonment Atkinson, the first military base established in Lake Charles. Not long after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, a border dispute arose between Spanish ruled Texas and the United States over the land between the Rio Hondo River (present day Calcasieu River) and Sabine River. The issue was temporarily resolved when both governments agreed not to have any presence in the territory. The area between the two rivers became known as No Man’s Land and attracted dubious characters such as pirates, smugglers, and outlaws. In 1821, the territory was transferred to the United States but the area still attracted smugglers, mainly because the winding Calcasieu River, with its many bayous and inlets, made great hideouts. In an effort to deter smuggling, the Army established a small cantonment, or outpost, on the northeast corner of present day Lake Charles in 1829. Cantonment Atkinson was manned by approximately 50 soldiers who provided protection to some of the earliest families who settled along the lake. The temporary military outpost was abandoned in 1832 and consisted of very few structures located near the present-day Bilbo Cemetery on Lakeshore Dr.



May 2017

Chennault Air Force Base by Cory Conner

Unveiling of a large portrait of Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault at the dedication ceremony renaming Lake Charles Air Force Base to Chennault Air Force Base.

May 2017


“America’s Premiere Industrial Airport”—that is the slogan for Chennault International Airport; with its 10,700-foot long runway, 1.5 million square feet of hanger/warehouse space, and prime location, it certainly deserves the title. The site had a modest beginning as a small local airport until the property was leased to the government for the construction of a military flying school in 1941. The school trained nearly 2,000 single engine pilots before it switched to training B-26 bomber crews in 1943. One year after World War II ended, the base was deactivated. During the early 1950s, the United States began to increase its military in response to the onset of the Cold War. In 1951, the former flying school was reactivated as Lake Charles Air Force Base, home of two B-47 bombardment wings and one air refueling squadron. The base was a large complex that included everything an airmen and his family needed, such as a bank, post office, hospital, and chapel. On November 14, 1958, the base was renamed in honor of Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault, leader of the famous Flying Tigers in China during World War II. Chennault attended Louisiana State University and was a schoolteacher for a few years before he joined the Army in 1917. During World War I, he was stationed at numerous airfields, including Gerstner Field in Lake Charles, and developed an interest in pursuit flying. After the war he became a pilot and as his military career progressed he became an expert in pursuit plane tactics. Shortly after his retirement from the Army Air Corp in 1937, he became an advisor to the ill-equipped Chinese Air Force. In 1941, Chennault recruited a group of American pilots to help defend China from the Japanese Air Force. The group was officially called the American Volunteer Group, but they were better known by their nickname, the Flying Tigers. As missile technology advanced, the B-47s became obsolete and Chennault Air Force Base was closed in 1963. Today, airplanes still land on the runway at Chennault International Airport, home to aviation service and maintenance companies such as Northrop Grumman and AAR.



Culture & Leisure

Lake Charles Festivals – Through a Historical Lens by Angie Manning

Southwest Louisiana is rich in cultural heritage including history, food, music, language, and joie de vivre. This love for life and celebration of our natural resources and people have made way for an incredible amount of festivals to take root and flourish over many decades, making this area the Festival Capital of the State. Being the land of Cajuns, Creoles & Cowboys, the “cowboy” comes into play with the Southwest District Livestock Show & Rodeo being in its 78th year this past February, and speaking of rodeos, the 79th annual Lake Charles Fishing Rodeo occurs this July. One of the oldest festivals in Lake Charles is the Contraband Days Louisiana Pirate Festival, celebrating 60 years in May of 2017. The event started in 1957 to highlight the area’s recreational and cultural activities in order to attract tourists. Showcasing Cajun-French heritage, the Cajun Music & Food Festival is in its 30th year this July, and the organization is comprised of people who are passionate about promoting and preserving Cajun music and culture. Also in its 30th year is the Black Heritage Festival, which takes place in March every year. This event features gospel, Zydeco, blues, spoken word and food, serving up Creole and traditional African American dishes. Mardi Gras has flourished over the years and has tremendously grown since the first Krewe of Krewes Parade rolled down the streets of Lake Charles in 1979. Just six years later in 1985, Mardi Gras of Imperial Calcasieu, Inc., was formed by a group of civic-minded volunteers, further enhancing the modern day Mardi Gras celebration. Mardi Gras can be appreciated throughout the year at the Mardi Gras Museum located inside Central School, 809 Kirby St. For more information on events, log onto or download the Lake Charles Events app.



May 2017

Happy 150th, Lake Charles!

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Well Wishes

on Your

Anniversary, Lake Charles!

Imperial Health’s vital role in meeting the healthcare needs of the Southwest Louisiana community go back

Rosa Hart leans in to encourage local actors during a 1948 play rehearsal. With her is Anne Vincent, whose husband Mordelo built the Pioneer Building – the modern-day City Hall.

to 1957. That’s when the doors of what was originally


called Lake Charles Medical and Surgical Clinic, or simply, “The Clinic,” first opened in Lake Charles. Fast forward 60 years and we are now Imperial Health, a group of more than 40 experienced, independent

For Rosa Hart, it was ‘on with the show’ for decades

physicians, backed by the resources of the region’s largest multispecialty medical practice. Imperial Health continues to expand, keeping

by Brett Downer

pace with the exciting growth in our community. Our

She was bold, brassy, brilliant -- the city’s first name in theatre. Rosa Hart was involved in local community theatre from its infancy—and would become the most prolific stage director Lake Charles had ever known. Today, the spacious main stage at the Lake Charles Civic Center bears her name in tribute, and the Lake Charles Little Theatre remains her legacy. Rosa Hart was the two-word essence of theatre in Lake Charles. She was there in 1927, when the city’s Little Theatre staged its first show. She was there in 1936, when the theatre resumed stage productions after the Great Depression—and she went on to direct every one of its plays for the next two decades. She was still there in 1964, when she emerged from retirement to stage a celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th birthday—and died a month later. Hart never accepted a penny’s pay for her efforts. She drew on a myriad of first-time local talent to stage her plays—and in 1948, she garnered the attention of Life magazine, who published an admiring photo spread.

physicians offer a wide range of primary and specialty care, with a support staff of over 400 employees, we have multiple offices across Southwest Louisiana, but we’ll always call Lake Charles our home sweet home.

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May 2017

Theatre’s local roots trace back to at least 1878, when arts enthusiasts staged plays in attics that were rearranged into performance spaces. Those early efforts were followed by Magnolia Dramatic Club, which produced plays locally and then toured them. By the 1880s, road companies were booked at the original Fricke’s Opera House—later known as the Lake Charles Opera House—until the grand building succumbed to flames in the Great Fire of 1910. From downtown catastrophe, however, rose the Arcade Theatre— which became a fixture for one-off tours, months-long residencies by stock companies, and visits from famous performers. Vaudeville, films, and local shows rounded out the offerings.

May 2017


A night of one-act plays in 1927 marked the debut of the Lake Charles Little Theatre (LCLT)—with Hart becoming its leading force and future directors Adley Cormier and James Johnson continuing a community tradition. The LCLT has shared the limelight with other theatre groups along the way. McNeese became a leader in the 1950s under the direction of Margery Wilson – with Jerry Brown, Bill Dickerson, Dan Plato, and Susan E. Kelso among the leaders since that time. Also, Artists Civic Theatre and Studio (ACTS), founded by Marc Pettaway in 1967, has long staged plays, household-name musicals, and children’s productions.



Maestro William Kushner


Maestro Bohuslav Rattay

A cultural centerpiece for decades by Brett Downer

For more than three decades, the baton of Maestro William Kushner waved with authority over the Lake Charles Symphony. Kushner was a central figure in music — and, by unofficial measure, a patriarch of the First Family of the arts in Lake Charles. His busy household excelled at the clarinet (him), bassoon (wife Sylvia), painting (daughter Lesley, in New York), French horn (son Eric, in Vienna) and playwriting (former Lake Charles High debate champion Tony Kushner, now arguably the preeminent dramatist of our time). But for all his Juilliard pedigree and white-tie-and-tails bearing, Bill Kushner would just as easily be spotted shopping at Market Basket or sitting down for an early supper at the Piccadilly on Ryan St. If you knew him — and most in town did — he’d offer a crackle-voice greeting. The symphony’s own story was 20 years in the making before the first note was sounded. The first movement began with Dr. Francis Bulber, who taught at McNeese from its earliest days and expanded his efforts far beyond the classroom. The Kushner Orchestra, Levingston Orchestra, and even the tiny Lake Charles Little Theatre Orchestra were indirect seeds of the original Lake Charles Symphony Orchestra, formed in 1938. World War II ended those efforts, so music enthusiasts would bring in guest groups for concerts.



Flip forward to 1957, when members of the Lake Charles Junior Welfare League met the in the living room of president Anita Tritico to create a new symphony. Her colleague, Jane Barham, chaired the League’s study committee. On Nov. 11, 1958, the new-look Lake Charles Civic Symphony made its debut at McNeese. Warren Signor of the college faculty was the conductor. Dr. Ralph Squires, Signor’s campus colleague, offered “invaluable professional guidance” in launching the effort, according to Symphony history. That first night was long in coming. Bulber’s pioneering vision years before, Tritico’s mix of elegance and effectiveness, and Squires’ unofficial assistance all contributed to that first performance — and today, all three of them have local performance spaces named in their honor. Kushner took the baton in 1978 to begin a record 30-year run. During his tenure, the symphony continued to promote arts education throughout Southwest Louisiana — and partnered with nearly every local performing arts organization for ballet and musical theatre presentations.

May 2017

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C h a r l e s


Play Ball! Lake Charles’ Sporting Past by Brandon Shoumaker, Calcasieu Parish Public Libraries

One cannot talk about the history of Lake Charles without discussing its rich sports past, which for many years included professional sports, as well as the city’s wealth of successful collegiate and high school athletes and teams. The city’s professional sports history dates back over a century, to the Lake Charles Creoles, which began play as the town’s first professional baseball team in 1906 and which won the Gulf Coast League championship in 1907. Lake Charles has also been represented well in Major League Baseball, beginning with the legendary Connie Mack, bringing his Philadelphia Athletics to Lake Charles for spring training in 1920 and 1921. In 1921, the New York Yankees, featuring Babe Ruth, and Rogers Hornsby’s St. Louis Cardinals played a preseason game at the old Athletic Park in Lake Charles. Local baseball players, both Lake Charles natives and McNeese State alumni, have made an impact in the big leagues. Players like Hall-of-Famer Ted Lyons, Preacher Hebert, Alvin Dark, and Chester “Chet” Williams paved the way for the stars of today like Jace Peterson, Garin and Gavin Cecchini, and Wade LeBlanc. Lake Charles has also been host to several successful professional football teams over the years. The Lake Charles LandSharks indoor football team began play at the Lake Charles Civic Center in 2001 and made three straight playoff appearances. In 2005, the LandSharks gave way to the Southwest Louisiana Swashbucklers, by far the 52


most successful pro team in city history. The Bucs won three consecutive league championships in both the Intense Football League and Southern Indoor Football League from 2007-09, going undefeated in 2008. The Sharks and Bucs featured many local talents like quarterbacks Alvin Bartie and Freddie Harrison, receivers Jermaine Martin and Shawn Piper, and linemen like John Paul Jones. From 1997 to 2001, Lake Charles also had its own professional hockey team, the Ice Pirates of the Western Professional Hockey League. Under the coaching of veteran pros like Dennis Maruk and Bob Loucks, the Ice Pirates, which featured former and future NHL players such as Graeme Townsend and Darcy Verot, made the playoffs in three of the team’s four years of existence. Basketball hall-of-famer Joe Dumars, NBA player Tierre Brown, and the Lawrence brothers make up McNeese State’s rich history in men’s basketball, while the Cowgirls’ basketball program has enjoyed recent success as well. Lake Charles has also been successful on the soccer field. The St. Louis Catholic High School boys’ soccer team has won 13 state championships since 1997 and won a national championship in 2006. That same year, Joseph Lapira, a graduate of St. Louis Catholic, went on to win the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, at the University of Notre Dame, and became the first amateur to earn an international cap with the Republic of Ireland since 1964.

May 2017

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Higher Education

Aerial View of McNeese State University, 1939.

McNeese State University “Excellence with a Personal Touch” By Angie Kay Dilmore

A major component of a thriving city lies in the opportunities for higher education. Lake Charles Junior College opened in 1939 as a division of Louisiana State University on an 86-acre tract of land donated by the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury. A year later, the school was renamed John McNeese Junior College, in honor of the respected educator. McNeese State College became an independent four year institution in 1950. The name was changed again to McNeese State University in 1970.

Today, the 121-acre main campus serves over 8000 students from Louisiana, the U.S., and approximately 50 countries. In addition to General and Basic Studies, it offers six academic colleges -- Business, Education, Engineering and Computer Science, Liberal Arts, Nursing and Health Professions, Science and Agriculture — and the Doré School of Graduate Studies. Their Department of Engineering offers degrees in Chemical, Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, as well as Computer Science, providing highly qualified professionals for the many area petrochemical industries. SOWELA opened in 1938 as a vocational training school. It went through numerous name changes over the years, as it continually evolved to meet the educational needs of the community. Today, SOWELA Technical Community College offers associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates in concentrations such as nursing, business, computer science, and trade careers such as electrical, plumbing, welding, drafting, instrumentation, criminal justice, culinary, automotive, and aircraft maintenance, and serves a student body of over 3000.



May 2017

May 2017




Natural Disasters

A catastrophic Friday afternoon in Lake Charles by Brett Downer

The Great Fire of 1910 began somewhere, somehow, on the west side of the 900 block of Ryan St. It’s generally thought it was sparked near the Opera House, but some said it began by the bookstore, with a trash pile, or maybe at J.J. Blaske’s nearby drink stand, kiddingly called the “Old Opera House Saloon.” Conditions were favorable for the fire to spread quickly. Wind wasn’t the only threat. Many businesses—and nearly all the homes— were wooden tinderboxes without fire suppression systems. They were clustered in a city of 15,000 that had only recently increased its full-time firefighting staff to six men.


On Ryan St., the Opera House smoldered, then erupted into flames, as did the bookstore, the hapless drink stand, and the entire length of the block. Just steps south, flames licked the Bryan Building, ultimately consuming it. Tenant Caveleri Santo, a shoemaker and fruit seller, lost $1,000 worth of inventory. Around the corner, the Lake House Hotel emptied as fire entered. The wall of fire seared northward, as well, taking with it Rock Hardware, the Kaufman home on Broad St., Hansen’s Tin Shop on Ryan St. Back at the Opera House, neighboring businesses scrambled as they faced ruin. Sparks and flaming debris jaywalked across Ryan St. to torch the fruit store, the barber shop, and the restaurant. Next door, G.F. Bolton lost his entire stock at the Rouss Racket Store. Nearby, guests at Walker House escaped injury before the building fell to the flames. Fire also raged south and east in a citywide disaster. The Catholic Church, Immaculate Conception, suffered incomprehensible damage, rendering it unusable. Nuns and convent school students fled to St. Patrick’s Sanitarium for safety. The Lake House Hotel, next to the grand Calcasieu Parish Courthouse, was safely evacuated before guests watched it go up in flames that now seemed to rage in every direction. From the cathedral, the fire cruelly hopscotched to Ed Ryan’s livery stable, the St. Thrive

Clair Hotel, and the homes of attorneys D.B. Gorham and Thomas Kleinpeter. Creeping south along Hodges St., flames hit the homes of James Graye, Charles Hebert, and W.M. Wilson. Herman Rock’s home at 627 Pujo St., a more than four-block walk from the Opera House, burned to the ground, as did the Reynolds home near the corner of Clarence and Kirkman Sts. — a stunning ten blocks or so away from the genesis of the fire. Diligent but hopelessly overmatched, firemen and assorted volunteers continued to fight a conflagration that threatened a civic crown jewel. The Courthouse and its contents were soon a smoking hulk. So was the rest of central Lake Charles, for the most part. By the time the last flames died out around 7:00 p.m., 109 buildings — from City Hall to simple homes — were destroyed that day. The Great Fire of 1910 raged for three horrible hours. Remarkably, no lives were lost that day. A massive rebuilding of the city commenced immediately and was completed quickly. The results of that reconstruction continue to define the look and feel of Lake Charles’ downtown district today.

May 2017

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AUDREY: City unites to help Cameron

Historic Hurricanes affecting Lake Charles

In 1957, after destroying Cameron and killing more than 400 of its citizens, Hurricane Audrey tore through Lake Charles with 97 mph wind gusts, a seven-foot storm surge, and seven and a half inches of rainfall. At Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, nurse Marguerite Meaux rode out the storm with 41 newborns and a full house of still-expectant mothers — and was pregnant herself. When Audrey blew out the hospital’s cafeteria windows, she taped blankets over the nursery glass. After the storm moved on, Lake Charles got to work. The city docks were used to bring in those who were rescued. The National Guard made the McNeese campus its base for rescue operations. Local volunteers assisted with Red Cross efforts to feed, clothe, and comfort the victims. At Memorial, there was soon no place left to keep the bodies. “So much sadness,” nurse Meaux told the American Press in 2012. “Everyone had someone they knew that had died.” Combre Memorial Park prepared a mass grave for unidentified victims, burying them in simple pine boxes. A monument stands at the site today.

by Brett Downer

IKE: Storm-weary city evacuates again In 2008, Hurricane Ike flooded lower-lying areas of Lake Charles after leaving much of Cameron Parish underwater. Offshore workers helicoptered home. The Port of Lake Charles closed. Many in the city were reluctant to evacuate, after evacuating barely two weeks prior due to Hurricane Gustav. Winds of at least tropical-storm force hit the city as flooding was seen along the Lake St. area, the beaches, waterside properties, and residential areas in both the northern and southern edges of the city.



May 2017

HURRICANE RITA: History we know firsthand If you lived through it, you remember it with instant recollection, and will for the rest of your life . . . your own history with Hurricane Rita. The long, late-night drive to evacuate, crawling toward some safer place. Huddling in hotels and relatives’ homes, scouring for spotty information on what had happened back in Lake Charles. “Look and Leave.” Assessing the wreckage amid fallen trees, shattered roofs, and flattened fences. MREs. Precious bags of ice. Days, weeks, and longer without power. Generators and gas cans and extension cords that helped to fill the void. Limbs. Splintered lumber. Swollen wallboard. Soaked insulation. The stench of refrigerators and freezers that were duct-taped shut for good, then dragged to the curb. Closed businesses. Elusive insurance adjusters. An onslaught of pickups with vinyl signs on the side door bearing phone numbers with unfamiliar areas codes. Humidity. Mosquitoes. Black mold. Blue tarps. FEMA trailers. Workers crawling over roofs like fire ants, hurling and hammering shingles and then swarming to the next home on the list. Debris piled at the roadside. Neighbors sharing tools, grilled food, and sympathies. Photo albums placed carefully out in the sun, to bake away the moisture that sought to warp and dilute the memories. History, it turns out, had hoodwinked us. Lake Charles was long a safe haven from hurricanes, and proudly so. Even in 1957, with assorted damage of its own, Lake Charles turned itself into a citywide triage unit after the unspeakable death, destruction, and suffering that Hurricane Audrey wrought upon our neighbors in Cameron Parish. That organic, even reflexive, response — to help others — was still evident in the 2000s, when evacuees from other cities came to Lake Charles and discovered the locals grilling en masse at the Civic Center, welcoming them with free food and empathy. In 2005, Lake Charles’ help was needed again — this time, more urgently than ever. Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina took up hotels, motels, and the floor of Burton Coliseum. They were safe in Lake Charles — until none of us were. Whatever our confidence, or hubris, might have been before September 2005, we now gathered up and left our homes to escape from a storm that, at its peak strength before arrival, was the most intense tropical cyclone in the May 2017


recorded history of the Gulf of Mexico. We fled a monster — and one whose specific path was still uncertain as we stared at the slow trail of taillights before us. We were right to leave, too, because Lake Charles — let alone its even harder-hit neighbors — endured the worst natural disaster in its history. The statistics on Rita are easily found and often repeated, such as the property damage ($12 billion across multiple states), its highest Gulf winds (180 mph), its strength upon arrival (Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) and the eyewall’s point of arrival (between Johnson Bayou and Sabine Pass). The numbers that matter most, though, are your own. For us, Hurricane Rita isn’t something on paper, but a defining moment in our lives. It’s the numbers of hours it took to evacuate. The days you went without power once you got back. The dollar amount you got — or should’ve gotten — from insurance. The number of trees that fell. The squares of shingles needed to restore your roof. The number of weeks or months you lived in — more accurately, endured — a FEMA trailer. For the people who lived it, the “history of Hurricane Rita” is better presented as a blank page — one for each of us to fill. It may indeed have been the Forgotten Storm, but only to rest of the world. Not to us.



150 Years of Lake Charles History

1 135



Number of immigrants who arrived in Lake Charles from Galveston on the Steamer Cassie in 1871

Number of mules that carried the mail to Lake Charles from New Iberia in 1868

Number of members in the Messiah Chorus, who first performed Handel’s Messiah in Bulber Auditorium in 1940

13 million

Cost to build the I-210 Bridge, opened in 1964

16 million Price tag on the Civic Center construction, opened in 1972

Number of floors in the Calcasieu Marine Tower (now the Capital One Building)

opened in 1983

416 Number of fatalities from Hurricane Audrey June 25, 1957


Number of acres of land Harrison C. Drew deeded to Lake Charles in 1901 for the establishment of a new park

18 million

Cost to build the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge, opened in 1951




1000-1500 Number of people who attended the Civic Center’s formal dedication

120 mph

(Category 3) Maximum wind gusts upon landfall in Hurricane Rita September 18, 2005 May 2017

Congratulations, Lake Charles on

150 Years! For Over 40 Years, Flavin Realty Has Served Lake Charles and SWLA with Three Principles:

FAITH • FAMILY • INTEGRITY We Look Forward to Many More Successful Years. • (337) 478-8530 May 2017




Strong Relationships Build a Strong Community Lake Area Industry Alliance salutes Lake Charles on its 150th anniversary. We’re proud to be part of the economic expansion that continues to make our community strong. In the 1930’s, area leaders expanded the Port of Lake Charles into a deep-sea channel and Southwest Louisiana began attracting industrial business. In the early 1940’s, our area was primed and ready to produce fuel and supplies for World War II. Following the war, industrial areas were created by government to encourage additional industry growth. Today, Southwest Louisiana is home to a thriving industrial complex. Lake Area Industry Alliance is proud to be a channel of communication between industries and our community, offering education about the industrial process, working with area schools to meet present and future needs of the industrial community, and lending support to local leaders for the continued growth of Southwest Louisiana.



May 2017

May 2017




A Rich History Is a Priceless Asset

After 150 years, the City of Lake Charles has a proven record of growth and success, and Rau Financial Group is proud to call it home. We opened our doors 12 years ago with the simple goal of helping people pursue their financial dreams. We’ve grown steadily since our beginning and are now located in a larger office near the heart of the city. As we congratulate Lake Charles on this milestone, we sincerely thank our clients for the trust they have placed in us, and we remain fully invested in helping every client pursue their financial goals. There’s no time like the present to plan for your future. Give us a call today.

Denise Rau


(337) 480-3835 Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through GWM Advisors, dba Rau Financial Group, a registered investment advisor. GWM Advisors and Rau Financial Group are separate entities from LPL Financial.


Happy Anniversary Lake Charles

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Martin Byrley | Agent

Ross Byrley | Affiliate Agent

e lakeshOre Drive | lake Charles, la 70629

Here We Grow! Join Us. Join our initiative and be part of a united, grassroots effort to actively support sustained, progressive growth and development in our community. Our Mission The Alliance for Positive Growth is an organization of professionals in the fields of real estate, development, construction and all other interested parties working together to protect property rights and promote strong, beneficial growth in Southwest Louisiana.

Our Goals • To be a positive voice for good growth in Southwest Louisiana. • To assist growth professionals involved in development in our region. • To provide fact-based information to the media and public about the economic benefit of positive growth. • To educate and advocate about the need for housing and commercial growth in our region. • To monitor and review municipal actions in order to work with area municipalities to complement public/ private relationships. • To support civic initiatives that enhance quality of life. • To endorse and support projects that align with our pro-quality growth platform. Visit our website to learn more about membership opportunities. | p: (337) 602.6788 • f: (337) 602.6789 May 2017




Natural Disasters

SWLA 2040 A Vision of Southwest Louisiana in 20 Years by George Swift, President/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance



May 2017

In the year 2012, Southwest Louisiana began a large cycle of industrial growth based on the discovery of Louisiana shale gas. Billions of dollars were invested in new chemical plants and liquefied natural gas facilities which were built to export natural gas around the world. The region became known as the Clean Energy Capitol of the United States. Thousands of new jobs were created and the regional population increased by over 50,000 residents in just over ten years. The advancement of technology changed the lives and occupations of people which led to many changes in business and government. With self-driven cars, the need for automobile ownership lessened. Residents now can call up a vehicle on their smart phone and it delivers them to their destination while they engage in business or pleasure as they travel. High speed rail connections from Houston to Atlanta and Baton Rouge to New Orleans have enabled residents to travel city to city in a manner of minutes, not hours. Water taxis and ferries transport citizens to work and leisure locations around the rivers and lakes of Southwest Louisiana. Vehicles traverse a lower, wider, safer

May 2017

six-lane bridge across the Calcasieu River on I-10. A North I-210 Loop funded by tolls has made travel around Lake Charles more convenient and accessible. In Cameron Parish, ferries are used to cross the river mainly as a tourist attraction. A new sleek bridge over the ship channel in Cameron has greatly increased commerce. The Coushatta Tribe in Allen Parish has made their folk-life and history center a major attraction. The eco-tourism industry, along with nature trails and canoeing, thrives in Allen, utilizing the Calcasieu River. In Jeff Davis Parish, the agri-industrial complex at Lacassine employs thousands. The Iowa-Welsh-Jennings area has become a major residential area. Carlyss-Sulphur-Westlake has become a large metro area. The Beauregard Airport Industrial Site is home to new industries also employing thousands. The Calcasieu River Ship Channel is still the hub of industrial activity and the Port of Lake Charles continues to be the number seven port in the nation. The privately developed Port of Cameron has become a key base along the Gulf


Coast. With dredging and a rail spur complete, the Port of Vinton is becoming a transportation hub. Chennault International Airpark is home to military and commercial airplane manufacturers. Lake Charles Regional Airport provides daily service to Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta. McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community College combined and are privately funded by various businesses underwriting the training needed for the jobs in 2040. McNeese has morphed into a research university in areas of healthcare, robotics, agriculture, and clean energy. With E-learning in place, the need for additional brick and mortar facilities has diminished. With technology advances, law enforcement can keep up with lawbreakers by remote surveillance. Advances in technology and increased costs at all levels of government have led voters in each parish to approve consolidation of law enforcement and governments into one metro law enforcement department and one local government body.



In Lake Charles, Ryan St. has been redesigned with bike lanes, parks, and outdoor eating venues. An iconic amphitheater is one anchor at the lake. A children’s museum and science center is the other anchor. An automated trolley system takes residents up and down Ryan St. 24 hours a day. A new Metro Government one-stop complex and town square is in place in front of the Lake Charles Civic Center. The main street of each community in our region has adopted policies and code enforcement to make “main street” in each city the main hub of activity. Enterprise Blvd. in Lake Charles is a bustling entrepreneur and cultural center. Dozens of locally owned shops and food venues featuring Louisiana foods and art line the Blvd. A Music Museum serves as the anchor in the Nellie Lutcher Cultural District to highlight the area’s huge line up of musical pioneers such as the Ardoin Family, Cookie and the Cupcakes, Rockin’ Sydney, Boo Zoo Chavis, Hackberry Ramblers, as well as Nellie Lutcher. North Ryan St. and Railroad Ave. have become quaint residential areas with access to the Calcasieu River wetlands as a backdrop. Urban neighborhoods such as Goosport, Broadmoor, Fisherville, Brownsville, and the Terrace have undergone residential development and revitalization of existing homes and schools attracting young families with school age children. The region is known as the home to a strong sustainable economy with high paying jobs and amenities desired by many who have come to our region to raise their families. Residents look back to the period of 2012-2020 and reflect that leaders at the time laid the groundwork for the quality communities of Southwest Louisiana in 2040.

First United Methodist Church

growing with Lake Charles for the last 146 years! JOIN US FOR SUNDAY WORSHIP 8:30am | Contemporary Service-Worship Center 10:45am | Traditional Service-Sanctuary

(nursery provided for both services)

Rev. Weldon Bares, Senior Pastor 812 Kirkman St. • Lake Charles, LA

(corner of Broad & Kirkman)




May 2017

CELEBRATING SAFETY IN SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA The Safety Council of Southwest Louisiana is a vital part of our community, providing safety training and services for industrial and contractor businesses, and offering a wide variety of educational programs for the community. • • • • • • • • • •

Happy Birthday, Lake Charles!

Safety and Health Training Contractor Safety Programs Industry Site Orientation Programs OSHA Compliance Training Defensive Driving Classroom, Computer-based and Web-based Training Certified Occupational Safety Specialist (COSS) Certificate for Occupational Safety Managers (COSM) Safe Supervisor CPR, First Aid, AED, and Blood Borne Pathogens

1201 Ryan Street • Lake Charles | 3621 E. Napoleon Street • Sulphur | (337) 436-3354 |

Hey Lake Charles, we’re on the same page!

4845 Ihles Road | Lake Charles, LA 70605 May 2017


For 14 years, Thrive has focused on helping readers live their best life and that’s exactly what Lake Charles has done for residents in our community for the past 150 years. Through difficult times and periods of growth, Lake Charles continues to flourish. We’re excited about the future and look forward to another 150 years of thriving! Thrive




May 2017

May 2017






May 2017

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