by KAREN LAGRANGE COX, Photos by LARRY COX
During a tour of downtown Abbeville, Louisiana, City Council Member Brady Broussard Jr. showed BY Local News around the city and highlighted its European-style design, attributed to its founder, Catholic Missionary Père Antoine Désiré Mégret (1797-1853).
Mégret designed and developed Abbeville around two central squares [source], which are Courthouse Square and Magdalen Square. These squares are each at the opposite ends of Concord Street in downtown Abbeville.
The City of Abbeville, originally named La Chapelle, is the parish seat for Vermilion Parish. Abbeville was named by Mégret in 1844 [source], who was the founder of Abbeville in 1843; it was named after his hometown in France. In French, Abbé means father or priest; whereas ville means town, which has also been said Abbeville combines these two French words.
Mégret went to Vermilionville (now Lafayette) in 1842. In 1843 he purchased land from Joseph LeBlanc. Mégret passed away from yellow fever, only ten years after he purchased his new town acreage (arpents). A statue of Mégret and informational marker is located in Magdalen Square.
Broussard, whose father, Brady Broussard Sr. (term 1986-2000), and grandfather, Pierre Ursin Broussard (term 1914-1918), previously served as city mayors, expressed his pride in the French influence that can be seen in Abbeville’s architecture and culture.
Downtown has undergone several improvements over the years. One notable improvement is the installation of a clock in front of the Vermilion Parish Courthouse, situated in the Courthouse Square. Around eight years ago, Broussard and the Vermilion Parish Police Jury collaborated to place the clock in front of the Courthouse.
Exteriors of the buildings on Concord have had facelifts with murals on some of the buildings.
Sidewalks on Concord Street have been redone on both sides of the street, with a crossword in the middle of the street. Sections of the sidewalk on Concord Street have been extended out into the side of the street. The extended area has brick flooring and a cement curb. These sections will allow the city to place planters for decorative purposes.
STEEN’s© 100% Cane Syrup has been made locally in Abbeville since 1910, and is located on Main Street.
For those looking for something to do in Abbeville, the city has various events and fundraisers, which can viewed on the City of Abbeville’s Calendar of Events.
The city of Abbeville hosts a variety of annual festivals for festival enthusiasts
- VC-CARMEL MAY FEST – Held annually the first weekend in May, this family festival features live music, food, raffle and games for all ages.
- THE DAYLILY FESTIVAL & GARDEN SHOW – Held the Saturday after Memorial Day. This festival features plant and flower booths, educational seminars, garden items, and more. Free.
- LOUISIANA CATTLE FESTIVAL – Held annually on the second full weekend in October, it features parades, music, food, contests, and more.
- GIANT OMELETTE CELEBRATION – Held the first weekend in November, this unique festival celebrates the French language and culture. Art, crafts, kids’ games, Cajun food, and lots more. Sunday afternoon cooking of a 5,000+ eggs omelette in a 12′ skillet over an open fire served free with French bread, Steen’s® syrup. The recipe includes Louisiana crawfish and TABASCO®.
The Vermilion Parish Courthouse, located at the Courthouse Square, mimics a Classic Revival Louisiana Plantation Home. The Courthouse, located at 100 North State Street in Abbeville, was built in 1952 for $725,884 and designed by A. Hays Town, a Louisiana-born architect.
The current courthouse is the third one to serve Vermilion Parish. The first courthouse was made of wood and was built in 1847. After the Civil War, the courthouse fell into disrepair, with a fire occurring on April 6, 1885. In 1890, a replacement courthouse was built and served the parish until 1851, when a larger courthouse was needed.
Heading a block west on Concord Street from the Vermilion Parish Courthouse sits Magdalen Square. The square has a gazebo, fountain, large oak trees, and a statue in memory of Father Mégret.
Free music concerts are held in the Square in the Spring and Fall.
Abbeville City Hall is housed in the Old Audrey Hotel, which was built in 1928 and is located at 101 North State Street.
The block-long Concord Street is the main street of the city’s historic district.
Cultural Alliance and Tourist Center
The Cultural Alliance and Tourist Center building, which used to function as a library, now houses a museum and an art gallery.
The War Memorial on Concord Street commemorates Abbeville residents killed in wars.