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Recently we published a photograph of the Jewish Temple in Opelousas during its early days. The information about this photograph included some history on the c.1868 formation of the first Jewish Congregation in Opelousas, with Joseph Bloch as its president in 1877. This resulted in several questions about Bloch Street in Opelousas, with many asking why and when it was named. Here is that story.

In 1878, the citizens of Opelousas petitioned the Opelousas Board of Police to have a street opened from Union Street running East to West, passing through the property of Joseph Bloch and connecting with a street running west through the property of Alexandre LeJeune. The petition was presented at the meeting of the Opelousas Board of Police on Friday, February 8th of that year. At that meeting the proposal was turned over to the committee of streets for consideration, and the committee was asked to report at the next meeting of the Board.

At the Board of Police meeting of Tuesday, April 23, 1878, the committee of streets reported that Joseph Bloch agreed to give the right of way for the street through his property provided a fence was put up on both sides of the street. The Board of Police authorized for payment of the fence, and it was approved. It was decided at that meeting to name the new street Bloch Street in honor of Joseph Bloch.

So exactly who was this man that deserved the honor of a street naming? Joseph Bloch, a well-respected citizen of the community, was one of the largest merchants in Opelousas from the 1860s until the early1890s. He was involved in civic activities for all the years he lived in town and was well known throughout South Louisiana.

A native of France, born in 1833 to Lazare Bloch and Sara Marx, Joseph came to America and to Louisiana at the age of twenty-one. He first settled in Ascension Parish, where be operated a mercantile business until 1860 when he moved to Opelousas. He formed a partnership with Mr. Solomon Firnberg and did business as Block Firnberg & Co. Later he was in a partnership with a Mr. Dupré and called that business Bloch & Dupré.

Bloch married Miss Bertha Kaufman, a native of Germany, in New Orleans on December 27, 1865. They became the parents of seven children: Albert J. (who became a doctor of medicine), Eugene S., (who took over the family business), Julia, Edgar H., (who graduated from Tulane University), Lucille, and Percy Argail. Oscar K., the youngest son, died in Opelousas in 1878 at the age of one year. The family was well rooted in the community with the parents and children involved in most town events and activities.

From the time he started his business until he retired, Bloch’s store was located on the northwest corner of Main and Bellevue streets in downtown Opelousas. The store building was beautiful and had been part of the community for many years. Long before it was Bloch’s store, the building was constructed as a memorial to a Jean Miramond, a wealthy merchant in Opelousas during the early part of the 19th century. After he passed away, his widow Mrs. Ann Miramond erected the building in his memory.

The Miramond Memorial Building was considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the state, and its cost was enormous. The materials for the building were brought by boat from New Orleans, unloaded at the port in Washington and transported by wagons to Opelousas. Likewise, the architect and the workmen were all from New Orleans. The entire courtyard back of the building was elaborately done with concrete and ornamented with artful masonry

Different mercantile businesses operated out of the building from the time it was completed. Besides the mercantile stores, the Patriot newspaper office was in the building until the end of the 1850s. In March of 1860, Joseph Bloch opened his business there.

Bloch’s store was quite an extensive business — one of the largest in Southwest Louisiana. It is said his business did as much as $50,000 annually, quite a lot for that time. His place of business was often called “a model of modern convenience.” Except for the Civil War years, the business got better and better each year. Bloch and his business were so well known throughout the area that people referred to the intersection of Bellevue and Main streets in downtown Opelousas as “Bloch Corner.”

Joseph Bloch served for a time as president of the Saint Landry Parish School Board and put a lot of effort into improving the public school system in the parish. He was a prominent Mason, serving as Master of his Lodge and as its treasurer. He was also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), American Legion of Honor, Benai Brith, and the Ancient Order of United Workmen (A.O.U.W.), serving several times as the presiding officer. He was also the president of the Jewish Congregation at Opelousas that he helped to organize in c.1868. He received many awards and was honored for his community work, including the naming of Bloch Street in 1878.

After Bloch closed his store in the mid 1890s, he moved to New Orleans where he lived out the remainder his life. He had many friends and business colleagues in Opelousas and often visited the town after he moved. Joseph Bloch died in 1900.

Although Joseph Bloch is gone, his legacy remains in Opelousas. His name is forever a part of the community because of that street named Bloch, and the Bloch Corner, where the present Opelousas City Hall is located.

The store of Joseph Bloch on the northwest corner of Main and Bellevue streets in downtown Opelousas in the early 1890s. Today the Opelousas City Hall occupies the old Bloch Corner.
1890 Joseph Bloch Advertisement that ran in the local and area newspapers at that time.