Lake Charles is the fifth
largest incorporated city in the US state of Louisiana.
It is a major cultural and educational center in the southwest
region of the state and one of the most important in Acadiana
. As of the 2000 census
, Lake Charles'
population was 71,757. The city serves as the parish seat of Calcasieu
Charles is the principal city of the Lake Charles
Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the parishes of
Calcasieu and Cameron, having a population of 193,568.
It is also
part of the larger Lake
Charles-Jennings Combined Statistical Area
with a population of
is considered a major center of petrochemical refining, gaming, and education being home to McNeese State
University and SOWELA Technical Community
With over 75 festivals held annually, Lake Charles is referred to
as the Festival Capital of Louisiana
. Its Central School
Arts and Humanities Center is a site featured on the Louisiana African
American Heritage Trail
18th and 19th centuries
Early historical events, settlement and incorporation
While several American Indian
are known to have lived in the area occupied by present-day Lake
Charles, the first European
in the 1760s.
Martin LeBleu and his wife, Dela Marion, of Bordeaux,
France were the first recorded Europeans to settle in the
area now known as the LeBleu Settlement. Charles Sallier
married LeBleu's daughter,
Catherine LeBleu; the Salliers built their home on the beach in
what is current-day Lake Charles. The infamous pirate, Jean Lafitte
, once delivered stolen slaves to
and other plantation owners
here. By 1860 the area become known as Charles Town in Sallier's
Hondo, which flowed through Lake Charles, was later called Quelqueshue, a Native
American term meaning "Crying Eagle".
, this became the name of
. On March 7, 1861,
Lake Charles was officially incorporated as the town of Charleston,
Industrial growth and the Civil War
The city's growth was fairly slow until Captain Daniel Goos, a
by birth, came to the city in 1855.
Goos established a lumber mill
and schooner dock
, now called Goosport. He promoted a
profitable trade with Texan and Mexican ports by
sending his schooner downriver into the Gulf of Mexico.
Until the arrival of Goos, a man named
Jacob Ryan dominated the lumber industry. Between 1817 and 1855,
timber sales from longleaf pine
bald cypress remained the city's primary source of economic
convinced the state government to move the parish seat to Lake
Charles from its former location at Marion, a settlement about eight miles upriver.
Later that year, Ryan and Samuel Kirby transferred the parish
courthouse and jail by barge to the then-named Charleston. Six
years after the city was incorporated, dissatisfaction over the
name Charleston arose; on March 16, 1867, Charleston, Louisiana,
was renamed and incorporated as the town of Lake Charles.
By the time of the U.S. Civil War
, many Americans from the North,
along with a large influx of continental Europeans and Jews
, had come to settle the area. Attitudes
toward slavery in Lake Charles were mixed, as slavery was secondary
to business interests. In fact, fewer than five percent of the
population were slaves
Many citizens became involved in the war. Young men from some local
families served in the Confederate Army
. It is also
known that some local families supported the cause of the
After the Civil War
In the years following the Civil War, Lake Charles regained its
status as a lumbering center. Especially in the 1880s, the city saw
an increase in population and economic demand largely due to an
innovative advertising campaign by J.B. Watkins; thanks to this
campaign, the city's population grew four-hundred percent during
Using the pine wood from the city's mills, construction of large
transformed Lake Charles during the 1890s. Carpenters competed with
verve to outbuild each other with their use of elaborate fretwork
and decoration. The area of present-day Lake Charles located just
east of downtown is known as the Charpentier
the French word for carpenter and features houses from this
The courthouse donated by Ryan and Kirby was replaced numerous
times; such historical courthouses include a two-story cypress
structure in 1872 and a brick structure in 1890. The 1890
courthouse, along with most of downtown Lake Charles, was destroyed
in the Great Fire of 1910
. Two months after the Louisiana
legislature divided the former Imperial Calcasieu parish
into the current parishes of Allen
, Jefferson Davis
, the presently-used, historic
Calcasieu Courthouse was completed in 1912.
After World War II
, Lake Charles
experienced industrial growth with the onset of the petrochemical
refining industries. The city grew to a high of some 80,000 people
in the early 1980s, but with local economic recession, the
population declined. As of the 2000 census
the city had a total population of 71,757.
The destructive force of Hurricane
Looking down the remains of the lakefront boardwalk toward the
damaged Harrah's Lake Charles Casino property.
Lake Charles suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Rita
, which struck the city as a
Category 3 storm early September 24
. On September 22, Mayor Randy Roach
ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city, and approximately
ninety percent of the residents left. Evacuees were asked to not
return for 48 hours, due to wind and flood damage. There was
extensive damage to the city's electrical grid, and many areas did
not have power restored for up to three weeks.
As part of the city's recovery from Hurricane Rita, elected
officials proposed a plan to renovate the downtown area to make it
more attractive and pedestrian-friendly. A primary concern for the
downtown revitalization was to include quality and affordable
housing. To fund this proposal, officials proposed a parish-wide
ballot initiative to increase sales and property taxes for 20
years. This was voted on and rejected by residents on July 15,
20, 2006, a Citgo petroleum plant located in
Louisiana released between 15,000 and 18,000 barrels of oil
into the Calcasieu Ship
States Coast Guard
was called in to contain the spilled oil,
which had by this time flowed down the Calcasieu River
. Because of the disaster,
the Coast Guard had to close many waterways, including the
Calcasieu River Channel and a one-mile stretch of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
Port of Lake Charles remained closed for some time after the
accident due to contamination.
Oil prices surged to over $74 per barrel in part due to the Citgo
spillage. The Calcasieu Refining Co., which normally processes
76,500 barrels of oil a day, was working at low levels for weeks
after the incident.
Geography and climate
is located on the banks of the Calcasieu
River in southwestern Louisiana, and borders both Lake Charles
Lake. It is a port on a deep-water channel to the
Mexico, and was first settled in 1852.
Lake Charles is located at (30.214656, -93.208537) and has an
elevation of .
According to the United
States Census Bureau
, the city has a total area of
42.5 square miles (110.2 km²), of which, 40.2 square
miles (104.0 km²) of it is land and 2.4 square miles
(6.1 km²) of it (5.57%) is water.
Primarily the city is located on a plain about 30 miles from the
Gulf of Mexico. Many pine trees used to grow around the waterways,
and some still do. Few hills are to be seen, except when one is
near the water, or in Moss Bluff.
Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Source: National Weather Service Lake Charles Office 
Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
- Carlyss is a town of 4,049 located between Sulphur and
- Iowa is a town of
2,663 east of the city.
- LeBleu Settlement
is extensive area spanning over Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis parishes, adjacent to
Moss Bluff and Iowa.
- Moss Bluff is a suburb of 10,535 north of the city via
U.S. Highway 171.
- Starks, Louisiana
- Grand Lake, Louisiana is a town of 2,320 located south of Lake
Charles just south of the Calcasieu-Cameron Parish line. The area
is primarily connected to Lake Charles via Louisiana Highway
- Sulphur is a city of 22,512 located to the west of the city
via Interstate 10 and
U.S. Highway 90.
- Welsh, Louisiana
- Westlake is a suburb of 4,668 located directly west of the
Calcasieu River and Lake
Charles from the city.
- Vinton, Louisiana
As of the census of 2000, there were 71,757 people, 27,974
households, and 18,015 families residing in the city. The population density
was 1,786.6 people per
square mile (689.7/km²). There were 31,429 housing units at an
average density of 302.1/km² (782.5/sq mi). The racial makeup
of the city was:
There were 27,974 households, out of which 30.5% had children under
the age of 18 living with them, 41.6% were married couples
living together, 18.7% had a female
householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were non-families.
30.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had
someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average
household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city of Lake Charles, the population was spread out with
25.5% under the age of 18, 11.5% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to
44, 21.4% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or
older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there
were 90.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were
The median income for a household in the city was $30,774, and the
median income for a family was $37,774. Males had a median income
of $33,005 versus $21,041 for females. The per capita income
for the city was
$17,922. About 16.3% of families and 19.6% of the population were
below the poverty line
, including 26.6%
of those under age 18 and 13.6% of those age 65 or over.
Lake Charles' public schools are operated by the Calcasieu Parish Public
, although there are a number of private schools
located in the city.
Colleges and universities
Charles is home to McNeese State University, a four-year public university in the Louisiana
McNeese offers a variety of majors, including
well-respected colleges of Biology
, and Nursing
. It offers several graduate degrees as well.
Over 8,000 students attend the university.
Also located within the city is Sowela Technical Community
which offers associate degrees, technical
diplomas, and certificate programs, as well as general education
courses that can transfer to four year universities. Finally, Delta
School of Business and Technology 
in vocational courses.
In March 1904 the Carnegie Memorial Library 
, the present-day Calcasieu Parish Library,
opened, having been partly financed by Andrew Carnegie
and built on land donated by
W. S. B. McLaren, President of the North American
Land and Timber Company of London, England.
The Calcasieu Parish Public Library 
several locations throughout Calcasieu
Downtown park in Lake Charles
Lake Charles has several small museums and other cultural
facilities, such as the Central School Arts and Humanities Center,
whose Black Heritage Art Gallery is one of the sites featured on
African American Heritage Trail
recently created by the
Also attracting visitors are the Children's Museum of
, and the Imperial Calcasieu Museum
. The Old City Hall has been
renovated into exhibition space and many moving art exhibits are
displayed at the locale throughout the year.
University produces The Banners Series, a series of various musical and
theatrical performances, throughout the year.
also hosts lectures from notable persons and academics each year.
In addition, The
Lake Charles Little Theatre
, The Artists Civic
Theatre Studios (ACTS) Theatre
and The Children's
provide excellent theater with local
The city has its own symphony orchestra, the Lake Charles Symphony
, which has
concerts in the Rosa Hart Theatre.
is the predominant
religion in the Lake Area. Roman
is the largest individual denomination, claiming a
diocese of 82,414
, or about 33% of the population of the five
it comprises, according to the
States Conference of Catholic Bishops
. Lake Charles is also
home to various Protestant
denominations, which when combined, comprise the majority of the
population. In addition, the city boasts a significant Jewish
population who worship at Sinai Temple
. Lake Charles is also home to other
faiths, as well as a non-religious community.
Interstate 10 passes through Lake Charles,
connecting the city with Houston to the west and New Orleans to the east. Interstate 210
loops through the
southern half of the city. Other major throughways include U.S. Highway
, which runs parallel with Interstate 10, and U.S. Highway 171,
which connects the city to the north with De
The city's main and historic street is Ryan
Street, running north-south connecting downtown to the south of the
Regional Airport, located south of the city, is the Lake Charles's
only airport which provides commercial airline service.
International Airport, while a fully operational airport, is strictly an
industrial and maintenance center.
The latter airport, a
former Strategic Air Command
US Air Force
base during the Cold War,
is named for Maj. Gen. Claire
, the aviator famous for commanding the Flying Tigers
fighter group during World War II
The Port of Lake Charles
in the United
States, the fourth-largest liner service seaport in the U.S. Gulf,
and a major West Gulf container load center. The Calcasieu Ship Channel
direct access to the Gulf of Mexico 34-miles downstream. The ship
channel, which has a projected depth of 40 feet and a bottom width
of 400 feet, intersects the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
north of Calcasieu Lake.
The City of Lake Charles has an operating bus system throughout the
city and surrounding suburbs. On July 7, 2006, The U.S. Dept. of
Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded
a $290,142 grant to the Lake Charles Bus Terminal and Support
Facilities Transit System. The City will use these funds towards
their bus terminal and support facility, which adds more federal
funds for engineering and design, as well as rehabilitation and
renovation of the bus terminal and support facility.
Lake Charles also has its own Greyhound
residents are employed by the petro-chemical refineries in nearby
Sulphur and Westlake; some of the corporations with facilities in or
around the city include PPG
Industries, ConocoPhillips, and
Citgo Petroleum Corporation.
The Trunkline LNG
immediately southwest of Lake Charles, is one of the United States'
few LNG terminals. It has facilities for LNG receipt, storage and
Lake Charles Cogeneration, a subsidiary of Leucadia National
, is scheduled to begin
construction of a $1.6 billion petroleum coke gasification plant in
Manufacturing has been periodically struggling to achieve economic
success in the area in order to diversify the economic base of the
city. Chennault International
Airport hosts Aeroframe (formerly
EADS Aeroframe Services), which services
airplanes, and a Northrop Grumman
Holidays and festivals
Lake Charles plays host to over one-hundred festivals and
carnivals, giving the city its nickname, "The Festival Capital of
Contraband Days is a twelve-day annual festival held during the
first two weeks of May. The celebrations are filled with savory
food, family fun and live entertainment.
The festival is attended by more than 200,000 people making it one
of the largest celebrations in Louisiana.In a reference to the
history of Lake Charles, the festival begins when an actor
representing the pirate Jean Lafitte captures the port and throws
the mayor of the city into the lake.
in Southwest Louisiana has a
colorful history dating back to 1882, when Momus, King of Mardi
Gras, landed his royal yacht at the foot of Pujo Street in downtown
Throughout the two World Wars, Mardi Gras was downsized which led
to a lack of participation by the area's youth. However, an
interest to redevelop the festivities arose, and the first Mardi
Gras Ball in the Lake Charles area was staged in 1964.
The full revival of Mardi Gras in Lake Charles was not realized
until 1979, when several Krewe
the "Krewe of Krewes", with the prime purpose of parading and
promoting Mardi Gras for local residents. In 1985, Mardi Gras
of Imperial Calcasieu, Inc.
was formed by a group of
civic-minded volunteers to further aid in the preservation of this
Lake Charles has many publications in circulation. The most widely
distributed, daily newspaper is The American
. Other popular periodicals include Lagniappe
, The Times of Southwest Louisiana
, The Jambalaya
, Gumbeaux Magazine
, and Thrive
magazine; however, the latter four are non-daily.
Major television network affiliates serving the area include:
||City of License
||News & Sports Talk
Notable natives and residents
- Lynn Anderson: famous for the song
" Rose Garden,"
was married to oilman Harold "Spook" Stream of Lake Charles; they
lived on Shell Beach Drive in the city until their divorce.
- Terry Burrows: MLB player for the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, and the San Diego Padres.
- James David Cain: (b. 1938) is
a former state senator and former state representative from
Beauregard Parish whose district
includes a part of Calcasieu Parish.
- A.C. Clemons: (1921-1992) was a trucking executive
in Jefferson Davis Parish who
was the first Republican member of the
Louisiana State Senate
- Alvin Dark: was a 1948 alumnus of the
Boston Braves, a legend at LSU, and a former major league baseball player &
- Christopher F. Davis, dancer in several Broadway shows, movies
and TV. Attended McNeese State University and was university's
first All-American Cheerleading recipient. Trained at Glenda Moss
Academy of Dance. Currently producer with Broadway Cares.
- Michael E. DeBakey: world-renowned heart surgeon,
was the first person to successfully implant an artificial heart
(in 1963), was born in Lake Charles. He's a member of Health Care
Hall of Fame, a recipient of The United Nations Lifetime
Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom with
Distinction, and The National Medal of Science. Additionally, he
was the originator of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital,
or M.A.S.H. unit, concept.
- Andre Dubus: well-known author and
essayist, was born in Lake Charles and was educated at McNeese
- Joe Dumars: former player and current
General Manager for the Detroit
Pistons, played for McNeese State University before going on to
have a successful NBA career including being
named the MVP of the 1989 NBA Finals. More recently, he was
elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
- David Filo: now a
billionaire, was born and raised in
Bluff. He created the Internet portal YAHOO along
with several partners.
- Sean Patrick Flanery: who
starred in The Boondock
Saints and The Dead
Zone television series, was born in Lake Charles in
- Matt Forte: Starting Running Back and
2nd Round-pick of the Chicago Bears.
MVP of the 2008 Senior Bowl.
- Lether Frazar: McNeese university
president and lieutenant
governor of Louisiana under Earl Kemp
Long from 1956-1960; McNeese library bears his name.
- Dud Faulk: son of "Patin" Faulk, was the world goose calling
champion for 1961, 1962 and the 1954 international duck calling
- Dominic Gorie: astronaut
- Ida Lewis "Queen Ida" Guillory:
Zydeco-musician. Queen Ida was born in Lake Charles in 1929. She
was the first Cajun or Zydeco-musician to win a Grammy Award, which
she did in 1982.
- Allen "Puddler" Harris: musician with Ricky
Nelson, Conway Twitty, and
Jimmie Davis; former director of the
Lake Charles Civic Center.
- Mike Heinen: American professional golfer who has played on
the PGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour. Former winner of the PGA
Shell Houston Open.
- Bob Hilton: was the host of the game
show Truth or Consequences and numerous other game shows
of the past. He appeared briefly as the announcer for The Price
is Right. He began his career at KPLC TV.
- Sam Houston
Jones: was born in Merryville, Louisiana in 1897. He served as Assistant Parish
Prosecutor in Lake Charles for nine years before defeating the Long
dynasty, becoming Governor of Louisiana in
1940. Jones died on February 8, 1978, in Lake Charles, where he is buried at Prien
Kirkpatrick (1917-1997): grew up in Lake Charles and graduated
from Lake Charles High School; he was later a state representative
from Jefferson Davis Parish (1952-1960) and director of the
Louisiana Department of Public Works,
through which capacity he worked to establish Toledo Bend
- Jesse Knowles:
was a businessman, civic leader, state legislator representing
Parish, and survivor of the World
War II Bataan Death
- Tony Kushner: Pulitzer prize winning playwright.
- Zachary Levi: actor, best known as
the title character in the NBC series Chuck born September 29, 1980 in Lake
- Nellie Lutcher: was a jazz singer
who gained some national popularity in the late 1940s and 1950s. At
one point she recorded for Capital Records.
- Robert Marciano: a weather anchor for CNN,
was the morning and chief meteorologist at KPLC TV in Lake Charles
during the mid 1990's.
- Charles "Cotton" Nash: was the first
Kentucky basketball player to average twenty points in three
straight seasons. In 1967 and 1968 he was in the pros.
- Van Dyke Parks: Mississippi-born
composer, singer, musician, and actor, reared in Lake Charles
- Isaac Ryan: lost his life as one of the defenders of the
- Eddie Shuler: was the founder of
Goldband Records and a legend in the South for recording swamp pop,
cajun, and other genres of music. Dolly
Parton at the age of 13, recorded her first single at Goldband
Studios. Rockin' Sidney, Jo-El Sonnier, Freddy
Fender, Phil Phillips and many
others have passed through the doors of the little studio on Church
- Victor T. "Vic"
Stelly (born 1941), former state representative and author of
the Stelly Plan
- James E. Sudduth (1917-1995), former mayor of Lake Charles (1965-1973; 1989-1993); Sudduth
was one of the most successful mayors the city ever had. He was
responsible for building the Civic Center on what was the lake, by
building it on landfill. He also was primarily responsible for
planning and building I-210, the "Lake Charles Loop". Sudduth
Coliseum is named for him.
- Joe Gray Taylor: was a
distinguished historian of Louisiana and
the American South and a professor and graduate school dean at
McNeese State University.
- David William Thomas:
(1876-1961) was a teacher and school
principal in Lake Charles late in the 19th Century.
later an attorney and the mayor of Minden, the seat of Webster
- Justin Vincent: alumnus of Alfred
M. Barbe High School, plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers
- George H. Wells: (1833-1905) was a Northern-born
Confederate States of
America officer who practiced law in Lake Charles and served in
the Louisiana State
Senate from 1878 to 1880.
- Singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams: was born in Lake Charles
and recorded the song "Lake Charles" about Clyde Woodward, a
boyfriend of hers born in Nacogdoches, Texas, who nevertheless told everybody that he was from
- Ted Williams: a Fox News contributor and a criminal defense
attorney, was born in Lake Charles.
- Henry L. Yelverton: (1928-2009) was from 1971-2003
a district and appellate judge based in Lake
- "Mighty" Mike White (born 1976), bull rider who currently rides for the PBR (he was the 1999 PBR Rookie of
the Year, as well as the 1999 PRCA World Champion
bull rider), was born and raised in Lake Charles; White currently
resides in De Kalb,
- Ron Miller, a Maryland
conservative political activist and former Bush Administration
official, was born in Lake Charles on August 11, 1959.
- Setting and title of a song by Lucinda Williams about a fatal car
- Mentioned in the lyrics of the song Continental Trailways
Blues by Steve Earle.
- Mentioned in the lyrics of the song Up on Cripple
Creek by The Band:
Lake Charles is a sister city
- 2002 - Blue Vinyl (dir.
Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand)
- 2006 - Mercy Directed by Patrick Roddy. Ex con
John Mercy finds the transition from prison life is not easy. As
John begins to settle into his new life on the outside, a
mysterious woman starts to follow him and finds her way into his
dreams, creating nightmares with devastating consequences that
threatens his parole, sanity and dream for a new start.
- 2009 - Good Boy Directed by Patrick Roddy,
written by Ken Henderson of Moss Bluff, LA. Good Boy is about a
young man in a dead end job, who steals from his employer and hits
the road for a new life. His journey to freedom is derailed by a
mysterious, sadistic killer and his human pets