Hidden History: La Place neighborhood embedded in Creole heritage

Hidden History

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- As we highlight African American hidden history in Acadiana, we go to the epicenter of black and Creole culture in Hub City.

This story takes us to the Laplace neighborhood, where lots of first for African Americans took place in Lafayette.
This Friday, city government is hosting a heritage walk to pass the history down to the next generation.

Created way back in 1856, the La Place subdivision was the center of black excellence throughout most of the 20th century. Take St. Paul Catholic Church for example; the oldest black Catholic Church in the city.

“They established in 1911. The decision was made in 1910 and the church opened in 1911,” said Carlos Harvin, Lafayette Consolidated Government’s chief of minority affairs.

Before the new St. John Cathedral was built, Father Teurlings spoke to a group of black Catholics about where they would like to be seated in the new church.

One bold member said they wanted their own church to worship in “dignity and style.”

A year later Saint Paul’s was born; and with that, they were re-gifted a key feature at church.

“The bell was actually a gift from the parishioners of Saint Paul to the newly constructed cathedral down the street,” said John Sinegal, parishioner St. Paul Catholic Church.

“When Monsignor Teurling‘s bought the property here to construct the church it was given back to us as a gift from the cathedral.”

Another interesting stop on the heritage walk will be Holy Family Catholic School— not for what it is now, but what it was nearly 100 years ago.

“This site was actually a baseball field for Lafayette‘s first African-American baseball team,” Roxanna Usner, with LCG Development and Planning. “They became semi pro in 1946 but they have played on this site where the school sits in the convent sits, which is now a library, since before 1928.”

The heritage walk is just one way to make sure the stories that make up the LaPlace neighborhood are never forgotten. Harvin says it’s important to know our roots and understand our past.

Related to this this story: African-American history of Lafayette neighborhood to be recognized
“Our ancestors overcame the odds and if they could overcome odds back in the early 1900s in times of segregation, times of discrimination, a lot of those doors have been opened,” Harvin said. “If they could do what they did back then, imagine, just imagine what we can do now.”

What you saw there was just a surface level look at few of the many sites on the heritage walk happening Friday morning at 9. The tour will start at Saint Paul church at the corner of Simcoe and Saint John Street.

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