‘From the Ashes’ : Photos, artifacts and video bring Historic City Hall visitors back in time to the Great Fire of 1910

Published 3:34 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

A fire destroyed the Lake Charles City Hall built in 1903. To find out about that fire, visit the “new” City Hall built in 1911 that took its place. It is this City Hall that is now the Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center at 1001 Ryan St. This public art and history gallery showcases local exhibits as well as traveling exhibits from around the world throughout its three floors.

The exhibit “From the Ashes” is now on view on the building’s second floor. It includes photographs that show the devastation of the Great Fire of 1910, an assortment of unearthed remnants from the period and  a video presentation by local historians Adley Cormier and Pati Threat.

Cormier is a historical preservation advocate who has written books about the area’s history. He has also appeared on Louisiana Public Broadcasting documentaries that focus on the people and places of Southwest Louisiana. Pati Threat is McNeese State University Frazer Memorial Library Archivist.

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Because of the Great Fire of 1910, city leaders began the quest to build back stronger and grow the city smartly, Cormier said, not only in their use of materials but in their choice of the architectural firm that would design what is now Historic City Hall, Favrot and Livaudais of New Orleans.

The fire destroyed churches, municipal buildings, retail stores and homes —109 buildings in all. Thousands were left homeless, according to Threat. The fire chief lost his job. Even some of the people that managed to “save” their belongings “lost” them as evidenced by the classified ads placed to try to track down the people the victims – in a split second decision – entrusted their belongings to. Cormier said the fire started as a “freak accident.” Behind an old Vaudeville house, a janitor set some trash afire as he likely had done so many times before without incident.

Historic City Hall is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is always free. The Charlestown Farmers Market is open on Bilbo Street behind the center every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

The monthly arts and craft market, Meet Me at the Market, is held on the Front Plaza of Historic City Hall on the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, please call 337-491-9159, email artsandculture@cityoflc.us or visit www.cityoflakecharles.com.