Editor and Contributing Writer
Feature Photograph: Fred C. Larson, Jr., Dianne DeJean and Alisha Deville greet visitors to the historic Chauvin, Womack and Dezauche home on North Lombard Street Wednesday night. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)
Historic residential Opelousas is getting more than a passing glance from investors and contractors who have also begun considering the city as a perhaps place to live.
The city’s historical district which stretches out several blocks in all directions from the St. Landry Parish Courthouse is becoming an especially desirable place for individuals looking for a place to live or restore the numerous old homes that are nestled among neighborhoods seeking to once again become vibrant.
Real estate broker Dianne DeJean who has sold residential properties parish-wide for decades is especially noticing an increased attention from buyers located outside Opelousas who are searching for houses 50 years-old or beyond to either purchase or improve.
One of those individuals attracted to Opelousas historic revitalization is Fred Larson, Jr., formerly of California, who purchased a residence at 205 North Lombard in March of 2020 and since then has been working on the home who represents a deep history.
Larson hosted an open house Wednesday night for the home previously owned by the Dezauche, Chauvin and Womack families over the past 100 years.“I was looking for another old house in an historic city and I found this one,” Larson said as he entertained several guests who filtered inside the three-bedroom residence whose renovation he estimates is about two-thirds finished.
Larson won’t be around to complete the project, since he plans to leave Opelousas soon and live in Panama, where he anticipates working on similar projects there.
The open house was like stepping back in time for longtime Opelousas resident JoAnn Caillouet and Geraldine Edrington, who both had histories with the house that Larson has begun reconstructing.
Caillouet even brought a photo album which illustrated pictures of the house with white french guarding the wide screen entrance porch which Larson also repaired.
Edrington recalled times when the house was owned by her Chauvin relatives.
Larson said he purchased the Lombard property from the Jack Womack family.“When I bought the house and looked inside it was obvious there was work to do. There were black plastic bags covering the windows. It was like a cave,” Larson remembered.
DeJean said older Opelousas houses have been bought for their rental capabilities, but that trend might be changing. “Some are indicating they are going to buy to rent, but other people from out of town want to live here and live in an historic home. We have the Historic District which preserves these old homes and we have a lot of positives in Opelousas,” DeJean said.
Recently DeJean said homes older than 50 years have sold in the south Market and Court Street areas.
Another on the corner of Court and Tennis Street was purchased by a person who wants home ownership, said DeJean.
Prices of older homes in Opelousas are comparatively low compared to other cities, DeJean added.“We have a lot of advantages (in Opelousas). We are built on high ground, we don’t flood. People from New Orleans, Houma and Lake Charles are expressing an interest in living here, because we are 110 miles from the Gulf. We do have our hurricanes, but the impact from them is not as great,” DeJean said.