CAROLA LILLIE HARTLEY with Melanie Lee LeBouef
Publisher and Contributing Writer
Photograph: The entrance to Le Vieux Village du Poste des Opelousas (Opelousas Tourism)
Located on U. S. Highway 190 at the east entrance to the city, Le Vieux Village du Poste des Opelousas is a historic treasure. Created by the Opelousas Tourism and Activities Committee in 1988, development of the village took over two decades. Today the village features historic buildings of interest to the St. Landry Parish area of southwest Louisiana.
The village buildings represent the area’s history over the many decades of Opelousas and St. Landry Parish existence. Here is what you’ll find as you tour the old village:
Venus House: This French Creole style home was originally located in the small St. Landry Parish community of Grand Prairie. The house is named after its former owner and occupant, Marie Francois Venus, a former slave, who lived in the home during the 18th century. The Venus House is one of the oldest houses of its kind in the Lower Mississippi Valley.
The Earl Fontenot, Sr. family donated the building to the city in 1972. It was moved to the site near the Tourist Information Center in 1973. After months of reconstructing and revitalizing the building, it was dedicated in 1975.
For many years after its dedication the building housed the Jim Bowie Museum and was called the Jim Bowie House for a while. However, there is no evidence to link the house in any way to the famous hero of the Alamo who once called Opelousas his home.
Many feel the Venus house is one of the oldest buildings west of the Mississippi River. A one-story frame structure, of typical French Creole style, there is architectural evidence that the house could have been built during the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. For purposes of nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, the date c.1800 was used.
The house is made of bousillage, a mixture of mud and moss, that is typical of houses built in South Louisiana, Normandy and Brittany.
A matching funds grant from the Louisiana Tourist Commission, plus additional funding from the Kiwanis Club of Opelousas, helped with moving the Venus House to its present site at Le Vieux Village. Those funds also helped the city maintain the building for many years. Other individuals and organizations have assisted with the maintenance of this building.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 22, 1991, the Venus House is the only structure in the village awarded that honor.
Dr. Lafleur’s Office: Originally located in Prairie Ronde, Louisiana, this doctor’s office was built in about 1908 for the medical practice of Dr. Ertemon Lafleur (1886-1946). Dr. E. Lafleur, as he was fondly known, practiced medicine in Prairie Ronde for over 35 years until his death on December 10, 1946. He began his medical studies at the University of the South at Sewanee, TN, and completed them at Tulane University in New Orleans where he received his medical degree in 1908. During that same year he married Rita Dupre, moved back to Prairie Ronde and opened his medical practice in the small office building.
Following the death of the elder Dr. Lafleur, in 1947 his son Dr. Nathan Curtis (N. C.) Lafleur (1919 – 1986) reopened his father’s office to house his own medical practice.
Dr. N. C. Lafleur, the son of Dr. Ertemon Lafleur and Rita Dupre, received his medical education at Tulane university, graduating in February of 1944. He served his internship at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, and was a resident physician for sixteen months at Charity Hospital in Lafayette until he joined the army medical corps. He received his discharge from the army in 1947 and immediately began his practice in Prairie Ronde, LA. Dr. N. C. died in 1986.
The Dr. Lafleur office building was donated to the village by the family of the late Dr. N. C. Lafleur and moved to the village in 1991. The cost of moving the building from its original site to the village, and then renovating the building, was sponsored by the Opelousas Woman’s Club, the Opelousas Tourism and Activities Committee, area physicians and other medical professionals.
La Chapelle House (aka Perkins Home): Once located near the corner of Union and East Grolee streets, this house was built about 1840 by Free People of Color.
The front porch of the house has French doors and windows and a staircase, called a “garconniere,” a French word to describe the stairs used by the boys to reach their bedroom. “Garconniere,” is a French word derived from Garcon, which means boy or young man in English. The Garconniere is typically where the young boys slept.
Many other families owned the century old home during its long existence. The Pefferkorn family once owned it, and so did J. Samuel Perkins family, who lived there for many years. Sam Perkins was a well-known person in the Opelousas area, having owned a popular stable during the late 1800s located next to the Lacombe Hotel in the heart of downtown Opelousas. So, for decades Opelousas citizens referred to the old home as the Perkins Home.
The La Chapelle (aka Perkins) Home was used as the Opelousas Art Center for the Opelousas Art League for many years. Moved from its original site in 1991, the La Chapelle House was donated to the village by Dr. Van Christian. The Preservationists of St. Landry Parish, the Opelousas Tourism and Activities Committee and the Opelousas Woman’s Club funded the move and much of the original renovation work.
Union Pacific Freight Depot (aka Missouri Pacific Freight Depot): The Union Pacific Freight Depot, is typical of early 20th century railroad buildings. It was moved to the village it 1991.
This freight depot, one of the only buildings of its kind left in the state, is important not only to area history, but to the history of Louisiana as well. The railroad was instrumental in linking Louisiana to the rest of the United States. The coming of the railroad changed Opelousas and the face of Louisiana forever.
Originally located on Court Street near the railroad tracks, the Union Pacific Freight Depot (Missouri Pacific Freight Depot) was used until the late 1980s. At that time that the company decided the building was a liability, and it was scheduled for demolition. The Opelousas Tourism and Activities Committee appealed to Union Pacific to save the building. Following several meetings between committee representatives and Union Pacific officials, the company donated the building to the City of Opelousas to be moved in 1990. It was moved to the village the following year.
The Opelousas-St. Landry Chamber of Commerce and friends funded the building move. The Opelousas Tourism and Activities Committee paid to have a survey of the depot building completed in 1994.
- The Louisiana Orphan Train Museum: Today the Union Pacific Train Depot is home to the Louisiana Orphan Train Museum.
Dedicated to collecting and preserving items from the orphan train riders, the Louisiana Orphan Train Museum is a must-see attraction for travelers searching for things to do in Louisiana. The museum is operated by the Louisiana Orphan Train Society, Inc.
The term “orphan train” or “orphan train riders” refers to the Orphan Train Movement, a child welfare program that was in place between 1853 and 1930. During this time, over 200,000 orphaned children were transported to foster homes typically in rural areas in the Midwest. Many of the orphans were also placed in Louisiana communities including Opelousas and other St. Landry Parish towns.
Address: 223 S Academy St, Opelousas, LA 70570 – Phone: 337-948-9922
Mary Jane Train Engine: The Mary Jane Train Engine, a steam locomotive with a record of fifty years of usefulness, at one time was located on the Courthouse Square in downtown Opelousas.
Built in 1904 by the Davenport, Iowa Iron Works, it was a wood-burner, with its best speed at 25 miles per hour.
In 1959 civic organizations in Opelousas purchased the Mary Jane and prolonged its career as an industrial monument, dedicated to the hard-working men and women of the past who helped link Opelousas with the rest of the United States through the railroad system.
The engine sat on the Courthouse Square as part of the Jim Bowie Museum, that was housed across the street, until 1990 when it was relocated to the village. The Opelousas Kiwanis Club paid to move the train engine to the village site.
The Mary Jane Train Engine serves as a reminder of days gone by when the railroad was a vital part of the local economy.
Emar (Amar) Andrepont Store: Built in the late 1880s in Prairie Ronde, the Emar Andrepont Store is typical of an old country store. The business operated for about 100 years, first run by Mr. Andrepont and then his son-in-law, Evrard Brown who was married to Rose Andrepont.
Emar (Amar) Andrepont, the son of Martin Andrepont, Sr. and Hermina Charles Pitre, was born on April 21, 1863, in Prairie Ronde, Louisiana. Married to Alice Dupre, the couple had seven children. Mr. Andrepont died on October 15, 1941. Following his death, the store continued to operate until the death of Mr. Brown in the 1980s.
The Emar Andrepont store not only sold groceries, but also general merchandise. Besides being a successful businessman, Andrepont was a well-known fiddle maker. His fiddles were said to be some of the best ones made.
The Emar Andrepont Store was donated to the village by the family of his grandson Dewey LeDoux. It was moved to the village in 1992. The move was funded by the Opelousas Tourism and Activities Committee and friends.
19th Century Outhouse: Originally located in Prairie Ronde next to the Emar Andrepont Home, this typical 19th century “cabinette” was moved to the village in 1992. The three-seater privy was constructed in about 1890. It was donated to the village by the family of Dewey LeDoux.
Whiteville Schoolhouse: Typical of a two-room country schoolhouse, this building was constructed about 1911 in the Whiteville area of St. Landry Parish. This building is one of only a few of its kind remaining in Louisiana. The Whiteville Schoolhouse was moved to the village in 1991. The cost of the move was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Opelousas. Renovation work on the building was sponsored in part by the Opelousas Tourism and Activities Committee and friends.
Palmetto African American Methodist Church: Moved to the village in the year 2000, the former African American Methodist Church was built in 1948 in the village of Palmetto, which also contributed to the cost of moving the building. The Opelousas Woman’s Club donated funds to help the city renovate the church. The renovated church building was dedicated in 2003.
Acadian House: Constructed in 1971, the Acadian House once housed the Opelousas Tourist Information Center, also called the Acadiana Tourist Information Center. It was the first structure located on the site that today is Le Vieux Village.
The building is a replica of a typical Cajun, or Acadian style, home. The Jim Bowie Museum was once housed in this building.
Pigeonaire and Plantation Bell: Also located in the village next to the Tourist Information Center is a replica of a South Louisiana Pigeonaire. In the old days, a pigeonaire of this type was used to house carrier pigeons and other poultry.
The Plantation Bell, located near the old schoolhouse, was donated to the village by the David family in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Jeffery David. The bell is typical of the type used on plantations in South Louisiana.
Jarrell Home: The Jarrell Home dates to the 1890s when it was owned by Dr. Vincent Boagni, a well-known Opelousas physician. Later it was the boyhood home of Bishop Michael Jarrell, who served as bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana from 2002 to 2016. Bishop Jarrell also served as bishop of the Diocese of Houma–Thibodaux in Louisiana from 1993 to 2002.
The home also housed different businesses during its existence on East Landry Street, including a gift shop and a photo studio.
In May of 2013, the Jarrell Home was moved to the village, restored and became the Opelousas Tourist Center.
J. S. Clark Memorial Walkway: Added to the village in October of 2014, this walkway spotlights the legacy of J. S. Clark High School, highlighting former educators and students including Olympic Gold Medalist Rodney Milburn. The school served Black students in Opelousas prior to integration, from 1954 to 1969.
Tour the Village
Le Vieux Village du Poste des Opelousas provides a perfect entrance to Opelousas, one of
Louisiana’s oldest cities. No visit to South Louisiana is complete without a stop at the Old Village in Opelousas.
Address: 828 E Landry St, Opelousas, LA 70570
For Information: (337) 948-6263 · (800) 424-5442