By Dylan Tingley
On April 22nd, Lake Charles’ sesquicentennial celebration will begin, honoring the first 150 years since the city’s incorporation and paying respect to the shared memories and culture the community has built together. Events throughout the coming months will showcase all the historic elements of the city that can be seen today, and allow opportunities to reflect on the stories of all those who have called Lake Charles home.
The first pioneers to make a home in the lake area were the LeBleau family of Bordeaux, France. Arriving in 1781, their six mile settlement to the east of the lake was populated by several tribes of Indians. The Rio Hondo which flowed through Lake Charles was later called Quelqueshue, an Indian term meaning “Crying Eagle”. The LeBleau’s indelible mark on the city is owed to the marriage of daughter Catherine to Charles Sallier who provided the lake’s namesake and eventually the surrounding area. After six years the town that was incorporated as Charlestown in 1867 was renamed as Lake Charles. The popular restaurant LeBleau’s Landing is still run by the descendants of their original daughter, and Charles lives on through historic 375-year-old landmark, The Sallier Oak.
Lake Charles has since grown to the 5th largest city in Louisiana thanks in part to the original sawmill industry, which contributed to the expansion and flourishing of the original community. Lumber from the sawmill was used in the construction of several homes within the Charpentier Historic District and the entire downtown was also built from this resource. Tragedy struck in the early 1900s when a fire engulfed 30 blocks of the young city, in the process destroying the Catholic Church and the Court House. It is a testament to the resilience of the people of Lake Charles that they were able to recover and rebuild the city center, today the symbolic ‘Phoenix Building” houses the 1910 Restaurant and Wine Bar commemorating this part of their collective history.
The festivities around the sesquicentennial will include the unearthing of a time capsule buried 50 years prior. Items were sealed during the 1967 City of Lake Charles Centennial Celebration, and carried instructions from the presiding mayor that it was to be opened on this year, 2017. Additionally, a family concert and parade will be held this coming Saturday uniting different community organizations, churches, and businesses in a celebration of history, culture, and continued prosperity. Events continue on through the summer and into the fall when an exhibition at Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center titled “150 Years of Lake Charles” will be on unveiled, containing a series of panels outlining significant historical events and particular objects of interest. There is no better time to visit the heart of Southwest Louisiana in Lake Charles and immerse yourself in the full character of the city’s unique and resilient spirit.
For a full schedule of festivities click here.