Indian tribes were the original inhabitants of Imperial Calcasieu before Barthelmy LeBleu, a Frenchman from Bordeaux, established the first homestead six miles east of Lake Charles in 1781. In 1803, another Frenchman, Charles Sallier, married LeBleu’s daughter Catherine and built a log cabin on the lake giving it its name. The river flowing through Lake Charles was called Quelqueshue by the Indians but became known as the Calcasieu. In 1840, 6,000 acres of Southwest Louisiana were organized into six parishes, Louisiana’s equivalent of a county.
The influence of the French Acadians is still present in modern Lake Charles in the architecture, food, customs and music, and “Cajun” French is still spoken in the bayou country near the city. Louisiana’s colorful history is present in its many festivals, the symphony orchestra, numerous dance companies and various museums and galleries. In addition to the arts, the Lake Charles community is a great place to raise a family given its low cost of living, affordable housing, pleasant sub-tropical year-round weather and the varied services it offers towards education, health, safety and recreation.
The Southwest Louisiana area school systems provide quality education at every level, from preschool centers to advanced degrees in higher education. The area’s economic base is a varied mix of business and industry, which includes oil refining, chemical manufacturing, riverboat gaming and industrial construction. There are 24 different chemical plants and 10 refineries in Calcasieu Parish alone. Other top manufacturers/employers include Northrop Grumman Corporation, Citgo Petrol Company, Conoco, Boise Cascade/Southern Operations and Harrah’s of Lake Charles. The burgeoning casino industry responded to a booming market coming from the Houston, Texas, metroplex and currently operates four river boat casinos.
When books are put aside and work is done, Lake Charles is a paradise for outdoorsmen. Water and recreation go hand-in-hand in Southwest Louisiana whether its bass fishing in fresh water marshes, or water skiing on the Calcasieu river or sailing on Lake Charles. The area is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the South and is home to several state parks and two wildlife refuges. Lake Charles also hosts a deep-sea fishing rodeo annually.
Southern hospitality given gently with a generous and caring spirit is a hallmark of the city of Lake Charles. Like many “Main Street” downtowns across America, present-day Lake Charles offers historic architecture, festive museums, interpretive history centers, walking tours, regional arts, performing arts, festivals, bed and breakfast establishments, shopping and restaurants. This clean and picturesque city has a little of everything for visitors and residents alike.
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