You can still find pieces of the Old Spanish Trail near the Mermentau River when you start on the western edge of Acadia Parish. This, part of what was once was a coast to coast highway!
"The Old Spanish Trail Auto Highway is what we refer it to as. It began in 1915 and it was a group from the Good Roads Movement and it took from 1915 to 1929 for that road to go all the way across the country. And of course we can throw a rock to it from right here." Dr. Eddie Palmer recognizes the interstate is important to Acadia Parish but the slower road offers something more! He adds, "Of course we like the interstate because of efficiency and so forth. But the nostalgia that goes with Route 66, Route 90, Old Spanish Trail, Lincoln Highway, all of those are things are very important to us to get connected and grounded to our history."
Palmer, along with other civic groups are working to bring the Old Spanish Trail back to life. And Rayne was the first in line! Saying, "As a result of our committee's work, we were the first in the nation to become known as an Official Old Spanish Trail City."
Since then, Broussard, Lafayette, and Crowley have all joined in. Palmer says there are plenty of iconic landmarks along the way. "The First National Bank building (in Crowley) was known as the skyscraper of the south."
Of course the railroad had a lot of influence on the Old Spanish Trail. "It came through here in like 1881, was when this particular railroad, the Southern Pacific came through this area. But since the railroad picked out the high spot, if you will, the good straight line, it was just natural for this thing to coincide and exist side by side." Palmer says.
And it was particularly difficult for Louisiana to make it happen. "Louisiana in particular was troublesome, because of all the waterways that came through here. The last little link was the Huey P. Long Bridge. It was 1935 when it opened."
But the master plan is to get the people into the smaller towns of Louisiana. "We're trying to get people to come downtown, to the historical district. To visit in the shops, and see the different murals on the side of the buildings. To stop a little bit and enjoy the historical significance of the towns."