LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Despite the fact that the City of Lake Charles was founded in the 1860s, most of the buildings downtown only date to 1911. That’s because a Great Fire destroyed seven city blocks on this day in 1910.
On April 23, 109 years ago, the fire began in a small trash can behind the “Old Opera House Saloon” on North Ryan Street. The owners called the fire department, but the firemen were no match for the gusty winds and the highly flammable construction, mainly wooden buildings.
The fire spread quickly, engulfing block after block, causing $750,000 (in 1910 currency, equivalent to more than $19 million today) in property damage as it consumed more than 100 buildings. Among the structural casualties were Immaculate Conception Church, city hall and the Calcasieu Parish courthouse. Most of the legal documents located inside the courthouse were lost.
An exhibit containing artifacts from the fire and photos of its destruction is now on view at Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center. The exhibition also includes a locally-produced documentary about the fire. Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center is open to the public with free admission Monday through Saturday. For more information, you can call 491-9147.