Lafayette Memories Page Gives Glimpse Of Hub City’s Past
One of the beauties of social media is that it allows people to connect with their long lost friends and other people who share many of the same life experiences. Their collection of stories and pictures give younger generations an opportunity to learn what life was like in their parents’ and grandparents’ time. The Lafayette Memories Facebok page is providing natives and residents of the Hub City a chance to reminisce and record a narrative of the city’s evolution. Today, we’ll take a look at some of those pictures that show what Lafayette was like yesteryear.
Many of the pictures on Lafayette Memories page, including the ones in this article, are included in the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court’s Archive. Those photos are on display in the Clerk of Court’s Office in the Lafayette Parish Courthouse.
It’s hard to believe that the Northgate Mall was once THE place to be in Lafayette. Event after Acadiana Mall was built in 1979, the Northgate Mall still held its own, featuring stores such as Montgomery Ward, Service Merchandise, The Ranch, The Fair, K&B Drugs, and J. C. Penney. However, things began going downhill in 1992 after Penney’s left Northgate for its current location in the Acadiana Mall. The bankruptcies and subsequent of Service Merchandise and Montgomery Ward didn’t help, either, and the defection of several other smaller stores, including KB Toys, Aladdin’s Castle arcade (formerly Land of Oz and where my father and uncle worked back in the 80s), and Musicland left the mall virtually empty by the mid 2000s.
This picture is from 1968 and shows the Northgate Mall under construction. It was built on land owned by the Castille and Callier families. The “Callier” name might ring a bell. Leo Callier, who owned the land, drove a horse-drawn produce wagon in town for what seemed like forever. Two of his sons are also well-known in this area: Larry, former Opelousas police chief, and Tommy, former Lafayette policeman and now Command Sergeant Major and Senior Enlisted Advisor in the Louisiana National Guard.
THE OLD SEARS BUILDING
Before moving to the Acadiana Mall in the late 70s, Sears was located at 705 W. University Avenue. If that address seems familiar, it’s because the building is the current home of Lafayette Consolidated Government. Mayor Kenny Bowen moved the then Lafayette City Government into the old Sears building shortly after the store abandoned the property.
This is an interior shot of the building from the University Avenue entrance. The escalator in the background is still in use today. The entrance on the left faces St. Landry Street. A wing was added on to that side of the building about 13 years ago to accommodate the Ted Ardoin Auditorium, which is were the City-Parish Council currently meets.
In just the last 20 years, Downtown Lafayette has changed dramatically. Streetscape beautified the area. It also marked the beginning of Downtown’s shift from a business and retail center to an arts and entertainment district. Gone are Abdalla’s, the City News Stand, Bell’s Sporting Goods, and the Lafayette Police Department. Now, establishments like Legends, Marley’s, and Tsunami dominate the business landscape of Lafayette Central Business District.
While it’s odd to think of where Downtown has been and where it is now, it’s even more astonishing to see what it was nearly 100 years ago and to watch its progression through film.
In this photo from 1928, you will see buildings that have long been demolished. Southside High School* sits on the sight of the 1958 Federal Courthouse, while the old Parish Courthouse is visible on left edge of the photo on West Main Street. You’ll also notice that the “New Old” City Hall is not standing behind the Alfred Mouton Memorial (it wouldn’t be built for another 10 years). Across Lee Street from the Monument was the original First Baptist Church building. It stood where Whitney Bank currently stands.
*Even though it was called “Southside High School,” there was not a “Northside High School” at the time. The current Northside High was not opened until 1961.
Compare the 1928 picture to this one from 1979. You’ll notice three glaring differences. The first two are the skyscrapers–the First National Bank Building (now Chase Tower) and the Guaranty Bank Building (now the Iberia Bank Building). The third is a massive hole across from the FNB Building. About a year before this picture was snapped, the Jefferson Theatre was demolished. That property is now a parking lot.
What are some of your favorite memories of Lafayette’s past? Share them with us here or on our Facebook page.