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Editor and Contributing Writer

Photograph: A mobile crane device has been replaced on the St. Landry Parish Courthouse Square in order to assist with several projects that are continuing in May. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

The St. Landry Parish Courthouse Square is destined to look differently in the next few months as parish government officials plan to display a currently hidden historic artifact, perhaps remove another and add a statute whose name is quite familiar.

Parish president Jessie Bellard says the exterior of the Courthouse is also undergoing renovation as the exterior of the building completed in 1940, is being resealed in order to prevent moisture from continuing to collect inside the sandstone surface.

Courthouse bell

Ballard said he plans to remove a 19th century bell now stored on the third floor of the Courthouse and place it on the Square.

“The bell has been a part of the Courthouse now for parts of three centuries. I think it’s time to bring it down now and put it out in front of the Courthouse  as a memorabilia item,” Bellard said.

Ballard said dislodging the bell from its current location won’t be easy. Ballard estimates that the bell weighs at least 1,000 pounds.

The bell said Bellard, once played an important role.

“People who were living in the 1880’s and afterward could hear the bell when it was rung from the top of the Courthouse. It was used to notify everyone when there was a fire, or when there was a verdict in a trial. You could hear the bell I am told, all the way down Court Street,” Bellard said.

The bell said Bellard, is currently in working condition and it can be rung by entering one section of the second floor courtroom where there is a rope tied to the bell.

Courthouse Monument

Ballard said he is working with a local contractor that he has not yet named to remove at no cost to parish government the Confederate statue on the northeast corner of the Courthouse grounds.

The Parish Council on April 20 authorized Bellard following several meetings, to remove monument and donate the structure to the Sons of Confederate Veterans or the Louisiana Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy organizations.

“Right now, there is no timeline for the monument. I am waiting for the Confederate Veterans to tell me where to put the monument and we will do that. The person I am working with has said this can be done at no cost other than paying for the crane,” Bellard said.

Ballard added parish government has been receiving proposals for moving the statute, but he has stipulations about the procedure.

“I want to move (the monument) only once. The Council passed the resolution for me to do that and when I do it, I am going to make sure we do it the right way,” Bellard said.

Council Attorney said the parish actually owns the monument, since it has been situated on one corner of the Courthouse since 1920. 

Parish government Bellard said, is also enlisting the assistance of a specialist who will begin dismantling the four granite panels that contain the names of Confederate officers from St. Landry who fought for the South.

Honoring St. Landry

The Opelousas Rotary Club will host a May 24 dedication ceremony for a statute of St. Landry, a former 17th century Catholic bishop of Paris.

Opelousas attorney Bruce Gaudin, who has overseen the project for several years, said it’s only natural that the parish should recognize the person whose name is associated with St. Landry Parish.

Parish government for the past several weeks has been arranging an area on the Courthouse Square where the statue will be located.

Gaudin said the St. Landry statue will feature a metal representation of St. Landry who during his reign as the Parisian bishop, instituted programs that assisted the poor in the region.