Located on the Vermillion River, Lafayette, Louisiana, (population 115,000) blends a rich French heritage with Spanish, American Indian, and African influences.
The Acadians, descendents of French emigrants who settled Nova Scotia in 1605, were driven out by the British and migrated south to Louisiana as early as 1764. One Acadian, Jean Mouton, gave land in the region to start a church for the scattered farming families. A settlement grew around St. John the Evangelist of Vermilion church, and in 1823, the Louisiana legislature created Lafayette Parish. The town of Vermilionville became the new parish seat and was renamed Lafayette in 1884 in honor of General and Marquis de La Fayette.
The city’s economy was primarily based on agriculture until the 1940s, when the petroleum and natural gas industry became dominant. Today, Lafayette has a strong tourism industry and serves as a cultural, educational, medical, and financial center for the area.
The Preservation Alliance of Lafayette has an active program promoting historic preservation in the area and has published a self-guided walking tour of Lafayette’s historic downtown.
The Lafayette Museum, housed in the National Register-listed Alexandre Mouton House, showcases early life in Lafayette. Two interactive, living museums—Vermilionville and Acadian Village—focus on early Acadian life.
Each year Lafayette hosts the Festival International de la Louisiane, a celebration of international music, and La Fete de Acadiens and the Summer Music Festival, which celebrate the town’s Cajun music heritage. The September Festivals Acadiens features three days of Cajun music, food, and crafts.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2007.