From Ashes to Architecture

Exploring Historic Lake Charles

(page 3 of 4)

Caretakers, Not Owners

    Owning a home in the historic district of Lake Charles requires a lot of effort and financial investment on the part of the homeowners. Wet weather conditions can cause havoc on these buildings, so the exterior should be regularly painted. In addition, three types of termites can be problematic, but many houses were originally built with superior wood that is more resistant to the pests, so protecting and preserving this wood has a structural purpose as well as an aesthetic one. “We also encourage that the façades of the house – the public areas that are shared with the street – try to remain as authentic as possible,” Cormier says. Archives that contain documented photographs of the homes from their early years provide information on what the homes originally looked like. Interior changes are left to homeowners, he says, “but we want people to think of the exterior of their homes as a shared resource for the entire community and that they’re essentially the caretakers for the house rather than the owners.”

    “We want streetscapes to remain intact so that they’re leafy and cozy and family-oriented,” Bourdier says. “We want the look of Lake Charles in 1900.” That said, the neighborhood is now much more colorful than it was at the turn of the 20th century. “In the early 1900s there was a trend in painting homes white,” he says. “This was a white town. All the buildings and all the houses were white – and then one lady who had a little two-story painted it a tangerine color with cream trim. Shock of all shocks, it took off like wildfire.” Color was soon in vogue, and today the streets are a rainbow of hues. At one point in time, one house had eight different colors on it (each shingle was individually painted) ranging from cream to dark purple with some blues.

    Those who live in this part of downtown are, for the most part, proud of their neighborhood. When someone wants to buy a home in the area, they’re told of the regulations and restrictions of maintaining the architectural integrity of the property. In Margaret Place (slightly southwest of downtown) in particular, homeowners are very protective of their neighborhood. “The neighbors will come over and say, ‘You can’t do that; it doesn’t look right,’” Bourdier says.

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