“Ramble” in New Iberia
The Louisiana Trust for Historical Preservation had a downtown restoration of the old city was the first feature on display. The 1930’s era movie theatre being restored provided seating for the opening introductions and historical review of Iberia Parish on the banks of Bayou Teche.
It was being readied for a production of Jesus Christ Superstar Saturday evening. Old buildings on the Main Street have been purchased by interested citizens for restoration and repurposing. A grand museum has been opened displaying the industries, people, and history. I enjoyed visiting with Howard Kingston, proprietor of Books Along the Teche, a small, but packed, book store at 106 East Main Street. The sugar industry has dominated the culture since the Eighteenth Century. Together with the influx of Acadians, the arrival of the steamboat, rails and highways, plus salt mines, Tabasco sauce, and a crawfish farms, Iberia Parish has evolved to produce a prosperous population.
The old town tours were followed by visits to two Acadian cottages just off of Main Street being restored by Leo Watermeier. Visits followed to Olivier Plantation Store in Lydia and the restored ancestral residence of Peter Patout in Patoutville. That community celebrates Enterprise Sugar Mill, the oldest operating sugar mill in the United States. The Patout Plantation main house is a magnificent example of the prosperity that sugar made. A final visit to artist Hunt Slonem’s Albania Plantation is a dazzling example of the best of restoration accomplishments. Plus, the three story home on the banks of the Teche is filled with the finest in period paintings and Hunt’s own imaginative art work.
The twenty-four hours immersed me in a region busily preserving its past to benefit the present.