Lafayette to celebrate history of La Place neighborhood with Heritage Walk

Posted at 6:41 AM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-22 20:10:23-05

Spanning from Congress to Cameron Street and the railroad tracks to University Avenue, La Place is one of Lafayette's oldest communities.

A heritage walk on Friday, February 21 took people through its landmarks and celebrated its African-American history.

Abby Breidenbach was LIVE in the heart of the neighborhood on Thursday morning with more on why this event is so important to those who live and work in the area.

Heritage walk to celebrate La Place neighborhood (pt 2)

The heritage walk started at 9:00 am at the St. Paul Church rectory building on Washington Street.

We spoke with one long-time La Place resident whose roots are planted deep in the neighborhood's history.

Anthony Navarre's family has called the La Place neighborhood home for generations. And it's the deep connection to the area that has him eager to share everything he can about the community and the place it once was.

"If you don't know where you came from or what your history was, then you have no reason to care about the area," Navarre said. "And a lot of the kids a lot of the children who are growing up in this area really don't know what our history was."

According to Navarre, the history of the La Place neighborhood is a rich one.

Created in 1856, just after Downtown Lafayette, the subdivision was once bustling with theaters, shops, cafes and bars.

"It was a vibrant area. Out of this area, we not only contributed to the culture in Louisiana, but we also contributed to the culture in America," said Navarre. "For instance, during the 50's and 60's Martin Luther King came through this area."

La Place was the site of many firsts in Lafayette including the first school to offer academic classes to African Americans (in 1903), the first African-American Catholic Church (built in 1911), Lafayette’s first all-black baseball team, and “The Block,” which was the center of commercial, residential and social life for African-American and Creole populations throughout most of the 20th century.

Heritage walk to celebrate La Place neighborhood (pt 3)

But many of the first businesses and founding families of the neighborhood no longer call La Place home.

Now Navarre, who's parents and grandparents planted roots here, has high hopes that the heritage walk can shine a light on the area's forgotten past.

"We're hoping that we're going to wake up the energy, the excitement of the young people and that they're going to want to come back to this community," he said. "And they're going to want to bring back the glory of the community."

For more information on the heritage walk, click here.