Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Walk Around New Iberia

It was a dark and stormy night.

We had listened to heavy rains all night. Sometimes a steady light rain on the RV can act as aid to sleep.

This was not one of those rains.

This was one of those pounding rains with frequent changes in rhythm and force, interfering with the hypnotic effect of a steady downfall that lulled one to sleep.

One of those rains that led me to think: "Did I leave a window open on the truck?"

The next morning revealed the results of the night's rain. From one to three inches of rain covered the RV park.j

As of this writing, we've been camped in Duson, LA, (about 10 miles west of Lafayette) for about three weeks. One of our first stops was New Iberia.

Glenn R. Conrad, writing about the history of New Iberia, asked,
"What's in a town's name? Some names say little about the town or its inhabitants; others tie together diverse heritages to form a community. New Iberia is one of the latter.

"New Iberia was founded on the banks of Bayou Teche in 1779 by a group of Spaniards from Malaga. It is the only extant town in Louisiana to be founded by Spaniards during the Colonial Era. The Spanish pioneers called their town 'Nueva Iberia' in consideration of their homeland. Their French neighbors along the Teche referred to the town as 'Nouvelle Ibérie'.

"Then, after the Louisiana Purchase, incoming English-speakers dubbed the site 'New Town'. In 1814, the Federal Government opened a post office here, and it was officially known as 'New Iberia'. Postmarks shortly thereafter reveal that the town was being called 'Nova (Latin for new) Iberia' and 'Nueva Iberia'.

"Then, in 1839, the town was incorporated by the state legislature as 'Iberia,' to the consternation of French speakers who supported 'Nouvelle Ibérie' and English speakers who favored 'New Town'. A compromise was worked out in 1847, and the legislature designated the town's name to be 'New (not Nueva, Nova, or Nouvelle) Iberia'. This exercise in nomenclature is, nevertheless, reflective of the town's varied cultural history. It does not, however, take into account the African-American contribution which was present from the beginning" (cityofnewiberia.com).

As we walked around the downtown area, we were attracted to the decorative brickwork on the facades of a number of buildings.

In 1899, a fire destroyed one square block of the primarily wooden commercial district. "As the century closed, New Iberians began rebuilding the stores of nearly one-half of the commercial district. A lesson had been learned concerning wooden structures crowded together. The rebuilt stores were constructed of brick with metal roofs and decorative metal facades. Today many of the buildings built in 1900 still stand, albeit with updated facades."

The outline of a "Bull Durham" sign is still visible on the wall of one of the buildings.

Some of the newer buildings rounded out our walk around the downtown area. Victor's Cafe is shown here.

The Evangeline Life Insurance building.

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