The history of New Iberia

Where else would you find Spanish moss hanging from a stately oak on Main Street than in New Iberia.

“New Iberia was founded, I guess you would say by a Spaniard by the name of Lieutenant Colonel Bouligny for which Bouligny Plaza is named.” said Director for Center of Louisiana Studies at UL Lafayette Dr. Michael Martin.

Those first settlers arrived by boat by traveling up the Bayou Teche which runs through the middle of modern day New Iberia. But Col. Bouligny and his group actually set up shop a couple of miles northwest around what is today Spanish Lake.

During the Civil War union soldiers had a camp at Spanish Lake and they also occupied New Iberia. In fact traces of their passing can still be found today inside the cities oldest public building.

The episcopal church of New Iberia located on main street was built in 1858. As the story goes the church was turned into a field hospital for wounded union soldiers.

Beds were brought inside and the church pews were taken outside where some were used as feeding troughs for Yankee horses. A couple of pews still reportedly show spots of missing wood from where those horses cribbed or chewed on them.

Decades before the city of Lafayette had its downtown revitalization program New Iberia had what came to be called the impact program. A program that involved spending a lot of money on the cities downtown area to restore historic buildings and revitalize the downtown economy.

The program worked and New Iberia Mayor J. Allen Daigre, one of the architects of the plan went down in history. A bust of mayor Daigre can be found on the third floor of New Iberia city hall.

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