GMA on the Road: A lesson in Breaux Bridge

Posted at 6:35 AM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 17:47:37-04

Breaux Bridge might be one of the smaller cities in Acadiana but it has a deep history.
Eric Zernich met up with Mayor Ricky Calais, whose family has lived in Breaux Bridge for several generations, to learn more.

The first settlers to land along Bayou Teche near present-day Breaux Bridge date back nearly 260 years.

As Breaux Bridge Mayor Ricky Calais explains, "originally the area was referred to as La Pointe, which was the result of, in the early 1760s, settlements or homes going up along Rees Street."

Shortly afterward the Breaux family arrived.

Calais continues that Firmin Breaux moved to the area from St. James Parish and began to buy property. That land eventually turned into homes for his family and neighbors around 1771.

In 1817, the Breaux family built a simple wagon bridge so people could safely cross the bayou, becoming the main landmark that helped people navigate the area at the time.

"Originally when people wanted to direct you to this part of Cajun land they’d say, ‘well go to Breaux’s Bridge,’" says Calais. "They would say it in French and that eventually became the name of the area Breaux Bridge or in French, la pointe."

 30 years later, "Breaux’s bridge" was converted from a footbridge to a drawbridge. Confederate troops burned that drawbridge during the Civil War to keep Union troops from crossing the bayou. A steel bridge later replaced the drawbridge, standing for 50 years before collapsing. It was recovered and now serves as a fishing pier.

Calais says that the current bridge was built in 1950, so many who live in the city today have never seen Breaux Bridge without it. 

Another draw to the city is its title as the Crawfish Capital of the World. That moniker is thanks to city’s unique history with the delicacy.

"We were the first community to actually feature crawfish on a restaurant’s menu," says Calais.

 And while Breaux Bridge embraces its roots, the city is looking ahead to the future. The city’s population has quadrupled in the last 40 years, jumping from 2,500 to more than 9,000 people.

"you know we’ve grown as our business community, we have a distinct downtown, which is still vibrant, we also have a commercial district that has gone up along rees street which is the street that comes off the interstate," Calais says.

Thanks to this mixture of both old and new, the city has won numerous awards and has become a destination for people looking to build their homes and businesses.