Lake Charles, LA
Lake Charles is a city of over 70,000 people situated in southwestern Louisiana. About 50 percent of its residents are white, and the other 50 percent are African American. There is a large Jewish population as well.
Located 57 miles east of Beaumont, Texas, and 75 miles west of Lafayette, Louisiana, Lake Charles is part of Acadiana, a region of southern Louisiana rich in Cajun and Creole culture.
Lake Charles is a largely industrial town that is dominated by the petrochemical industry. In recent years the city has been pounded by hurricanes, specifically by Rita in 2005 and Ike in 2008. Lake Charles is known as the Festival Capital of Louisiana because it hosts dozens of festivals and carnivals annually. It is also known as a gambling town and is home to nine casinos.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Some of the leading industries in the city are healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, food services, and educational services. The economy of Lake Charles is strong despite suffering a direct hit by Hurricane Rita in 2005. The city was further damaged by hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 and the local waterways were badly polluted in 2006 by a CITGO oil spill, which closed down the Port of Lake Charles for a brief period. Despite these natural and environmental disasters, Lake Charles is weathering the current recession fairly well. Major employers in the city are L'Auberge Du Lac Hotel & Casino, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, McNeese State University, and Southwest Louisiana Hospital Association.
Lake Charles is in the top five largest incorporated cities situated in southwestern Louisiana. Lake Charles has 12.2 percent unemployment rate that is quite higher than national average rate. The cost of living is about 20 percent lower than that of the country as a whole. Lake Charles' economic endurance is due largely to the petrochemical industry, which has a strong presence in town. Other local employers include two aerospace companies and the casinos.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Lake Charles accommodates about 31,310 houses with an occupancy ratio that is little less than 90 percent. Out of the occupied houses in the city, owners occupy is about 16,110 houses and renters occupy about 11,770 houses.
Lake Charles comprises several distinct neighborhoods and districts:
- The Charpentier Historic District encompasses 380 buildings built between 1880 and 1939. Most of the buildings are residences, typically built of lumber which was harvested and milled in Southwest Louisiana during the height of the sawmill industry. The district features everything from small bungalows to large mansions, as there was no separation between "rich" and "poor" neighborhoods. About 20 percent of the homes in Charpentier are Queen Anne Revival homes.
- The Margaret Place Historic District was established in 1912 and is generally considered the oldest recorded subdivision in Calcasieu Parish. The district includes fewer than 100 homes varying in size and style. There are several brick homes, but most are wood frame on piers with several offering classic "Lake Charles Columns."
- Downtown Lake Charles is the city's developing commercial center with restaurants, shops, arts and cultural centers, and other businesses. On the shore of the fresh water lake is the only white sand inland beach on the Gulf Coast. A boardwalk stretches the length of the lakefront connecting the beach to a series of waterfront parks, including Millennium Park, the Veteran's Memorial Park and the September 11th Memorial.
- L'Auberge du Lac Casino and Resort. The riverboat casino portion of the resort has about 30,000 square feet of gambling and 60 table games, along with a spectacular glass dome and vaulted ceilings. The resort itself has nine bars and restaurants, eight exclusive shops, and a huge pool with a lazy river. The 26-story hotel has over 1,000 rooms, including lavish villas with private courtyards.
- Lake Charles Lakefront and Boardwalk. The white sand beaches of Lake Charles, dotted by picturesque old homes, are a beautiful part of town. The Lake Charles Civic Center and Arcade Amphitheater located at the lakefront, host live entertainment events. Unfortunately, the lakefront was damaged badly by hurricanes, but rebuilding is underway. As of January 2009 the boardwalk is blocked off from the beach because of the reconstruction of a casino.
- Children's Museum of Lake Charles. At this three-story interactive museum, kids learn about the human body through the Mr. Bones and Big Mouth exhibits. The museum also features a bubble factory, a large model of the southwest Louisiana waterworks, and over 40 other exhibits.
- Imperial Calcasieu Museum. Exhibits at this museum teach visitors about the history of Acadiana though period furnished rooms, historical documents, and other artifacts. The museum also has a large art collection.
These are some of the largest annual celebrations in the Festival Capital of Louisiana:
- Mardi Gras. Lake Charles hosts the second-largest Mardi Gras celebration in Louisiana. The festival includes an annual Cajun extravaganza and gumbo cook-off, a lighted boat parade, and a children's parade.
- Contraband Days. This May festival lasts nearly two weeks and features a pirate theme in honor of Jean Lafitte, a pirate who used Lake Charles as a hiding place three centuries ago. Contraband Days offers more than 100 events, including belly dancing, art shows, and a pirate parade.
- Black Heritage Festival. This two-day event is held in March and includes lots of music, everything from Zydeco to gospel to spoken word; as well as a black heritage art gallery, a beauty pageant, and plenty of Creole and soul food.
Other festivals include the Martin Luther King, Jr., Festival (January) and the Bayou Blues and Zydeco Festival (September).
Lake Charles offers opportunities for higher education through the following institutions:
- McNeese State University
- SOWELA Technical Community College.
Public primary and secondary education is provided by the Calcasieu Parish Public School District, which serves around 32,000 students.
College sports are popular in Lake Charles, especially football. Sports fans follow the McNeese teams, which are known as the Cowboys and the Cowgirls. Fans also root for teams from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Lake Charles' local publications:
- American Press (daily)
- Times of Southwest New Orleans (weekly)
Lake Charles' local radio stations:
- ABC: KATC, Channel 3 (Lafayette)
- CBS: KLFY, Channel 10 (Lafayette)
- CBS: KFDM, Channel 6 (Beaumont, Texas)
- NBC: KLPC, Channel 7 (Lake Charles)
- Fox: KVHP, Channel 29 (Lake Charles)
- PBS: KLTL, Channel 18 (Lake Charles)