By Brittany Racca
Main Street New Iberia is making a come back with recent developments including being named a National Register Historic District. The 68.8-acres-designated district includes 123 buildings and sites of which 82 are contributing to the district with seven of these buildings being previously listed individually.
The district retains its historic integrity as the commercial center for the City of New Iberia and the surrounding region; as well as its architectural and historic identity as a center of commerce, recreation, restaurants and entertainment. It is an important representative of a late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth century townscape.
Over the past several years, downtown received national recognition as a “Great American Main Street,” for its successful efforts in revitalizing its commercial district by the National Main Street Center. New Iberia is the only city in the country with both an accredited Main Street and a National Trust-owned property (Shadows-on-the-Teche) actually located on its Main Street.
In addition to its beautiful architecture, antique shops, specialty boutiques, art, museums, music and restaurants, Main Street New Iberia offers various events throughout the year, including a farmers market, patriotic events, festivals, performances, art and holiday activities. For a complete list of Iberia Parish happenings, visit our event calendar.
1) Church Alley
The new Church Alley Pocket Park is the starting point of the 3.2-mile-bicycle trail through both the National Register Downtown Commercial and Residential Historic Districts.
In 1837, Frédéric Henri Duperier donated the land upon which St. Peter's Catholic Church was built to the city with intentions of sitting on his porch and being able to gaze across the bayou, down the alley and view the very stately church. The Duperier family lived across the Bayou Teche in the mansion that was to become Mt. Carmel Academy.
Under Duperier's leadership the town was incorporated on March 13, 1839, two days before his death. The city accepted the donation of the alley with the agreement that it would always be known as “Church Alley.” The nuns from the academy would eventually use the route to walk students to mass at the church. The alley is now a contributing part of the National Register District.
Iberia Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau has worked with the City of New Iberia and the New Iberia Main Street Program to create an all-encompassing Historic District Trail brochure as a guide to help visitors learn about the various buildings and homes that comprise the newly designated area. The bureau has also commissioned the installation of an interpretive kiosk to tell the rich history of Church Alley and its origins.
2) Unmasking the Past
The newly-founded Iberia African American Historical Society (IAAHS received approval from the Louisiana Office of Tourism (under the Office of Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser) for the erection of a state historic marker honoring Dr. Emma Wakefield-Paillet, the first Black woman to receive a medical degree and to establish a medical practice in Louisiana.
The marker will be installed in the heart of the historic district (Bouligny Plaza, Main Street). Plans are to hold the marker installation ceremony in the Fall of 2018 to coincide roughly with the sesquicentennial (150 years) celebration of the founding of Iberia Parish (Oct. 30, 1868) and the sesquicentennial anniversary of Dr. Wakefield-Paillet’s birth (Nov. 21, 1868).
3) Downtown Developments
The newest restaurant on Main Street, Clementine on Main, is an old favorite. The restaurant has gone through many changes over the years, but under the guiding hands of new owners, Clementine has returned to its origins of fine cuisine and southern hospitality. Check out our blog "A Night at Clementine on Main" to see what's new at this old staple.
Pelicans on the Bayou is another new eatery that allows visitors to sit near the bank of the Bayou Teche to enjoy a delicious meal and live entertainment. With weekly plate lunch specials and Sunday BBQ dinners as well as the always available seafood dishes including fried shrimp, fried oysters poboys, wraps, salads and more, Pelicans offers traditional Cajun food in a family friendly setting.
Bojangles Sushi & Oyster Bar has recently undergone a complete renovation and is looking better than ever! The décor has been updated with intimate booth seating, increased seating space, and modernized restrooms. The reworked menu includes many favorites such as charbroiled oysters, hibachi options and sushi rolls.
The Bayou Teche Museum is expanding its exhibit space with a new wing. Next door, the George Rodrigue Park is also being built to add another pocket park to the area as well as pay homage to local Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue.
4) City Adventures
One ticket, three sites. The New Iberia Downtown Historic Pass includes tour admissions to the Bayou Teche Museum, Conrad Rice Mill and Shadows-on-the-Teche. This pass enables ticket holders to visit the three main attractions in the downtown area for a fraction of the price. The plan is to also have local small businesses offer discounts to pass-holders. For more information, read our full write up on the pass.
With a new National Register Historic District Trail, business revivals, pocket parks like Church Alley and the George Rodrigue park under construction, as well as the fall unveiling of a state historical marker honoring Dr. Emma Wakefield-Paillet, New Iberia is working hard to honor the past as well as looking to improve its future.