Historic Walking Tour of Lake Charles, Louisiana

Courthouse- also built after the 1910 fire

Every Saturday, there is a small Farmer’s Market in the parking lot of the historic City Hall building. After picking up some delicious local grapefruit, we started out on a walking tour of the historic city center. The old city hall building is now an arts and cultural center and we enjoyed a traveling exhibit on the circus on the 3rd floor. The building was built in 1911 after a fire destroyed most of Lake Charles’ downtown. It has an Italianesque style and is a very neat building both inside and out. Across the street is the courthouse. It is fashioned to look like “The Rotunda” a building in northern Italy. We looked up the original building and sure enough, they look very similar! The domed roof is made of copper. We did not go inside this building, but Landon enjoyed the cannon that was on the front lawn.

Catholic Cathedral

Around the corner from these iconic building was this gorgeous cathedral that was such a unique color. We did not go inside (somehow it feels more permissible to go inside European churches… explain?) but the outside was beautiful.

Beaux-Arts style Masonic Temple

With all the French influence in Louisiana, the Masonic temple is a good example of Parisian beaux- arts style. It is a little boxy for my taste, and the only reason I know the styles is because of the handy Historic Lake Charles app that gave us cool info on each house/building and gave us a walking route.

Good example of mill work and lots of porches!

After seeing some of the civic buildings, we checked out some of the early houses around town. We toured the Charpentier District- which means Carpenter district in French. Before architects came to the city, carpenters just put up houses without plans and exhibited their individual styles in the houses they built.  Lake Charles was a big area for lumber in the early 1900s, and often the homes showed off the different wooden ornamental things offered by the mills. Porches were really important back before air conditioning because people would sleep on them when it was too hot inside. This house above had seven porches total!

I love turrets, and this color green

 The app gave us some interesting stories about some of the dwellings. This house below was the Reid house- and they were the law enforcement personnel of Lake Charles. When the town burnt in 1910, the jail burnt down. The jailer, Mr. Reid, housed the criminals in the attic of his home. A ghost story with the property is that one of the prisoners tried to escape by jumping out the window and died. To this day, people report hearing breaking glass and a scream some nights near the house.

The Reid house
Another turret!

Lake Charles columns are square and span two stories. The porches and columns on this house were just gorgeous. Something interesting we learned is that they paint the bottom side of the porch sky blue to prevent wasps and hornets from building nests on the ceiling.

Lake Charles columns and blue porch roof

Another interesting architectural feature of some houses in the older part of town are odd number of columns on the porches. I guess this was part of the carpenter’s quirks was to do an odd number of columns.

5 Columns
5 unequally spaced columns!

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