A tour of St. Martin Parish’s historic and hallowed landmarks
Founded in 1755 by the French-Canadian exiles of Acadie who sought religious and cultural freedom, Cajun Country’s long and poignant history is just as interesting as the people who inhabit it. The storied landmarks that remain in St. Martin Parish today are a testament not only to the region’s historic significance, but its diverse cultural influences, too. The parish is home to 25 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which can be found in St. Martinville, one of the Bayou State’s oldest settlements and, as the parish seat, the “record keepers” of the region. Whether you’re a history buff with a passion for the past or an inquisitive traveler with a compelling curiosity, here are five historic landmarks to visit on your next St. Martin Parish getaway.
Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site
Louisiana’s first state park honors the famous legend of Evangeline. It’s also home to Maison Olivier, a Creole plantation built around 1815 along the banks of Bayou Teche. Featuring a mix of French, Creole, and Caribbean architectural styles, the historic estate exemplifies Louisiana’s rich cultural and political influences. The blacksmith shop and visitor’s center, which also contains an outstanding museum, are nearby, and the park is open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm daily.
Evangeline Oak Park
The park centers on an ancient live oak tree along the Bayou Teche that has been the most visited spot in St. Martinville since the late nineteenth century. Named for the heroine of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 beloved epic poem Evangeline, the work was long believed to be a true account of the exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia by the British beginning in 1755. Embark on an early morning or sunset stroll along the boardwalk to see the Evangeline Oak at its most scenic time of day, and stop by the St. Martinville Cultural Heritage Center while you’re there to see the Acadian Memorial.
Breaux Bridge Historic District
Explore how Breaux Bridge’s earliest inhabitants lived while wandering among the town’s treasure trove of historic buildings. The district includes structures such as old Acadian homes and private manors, the St. Bernard Catholic Church, and the local two-tier hardware store that now houses a flower shop in its gallery. For a complete list of historic buildings in the district and their significance, click here to read more.
St. Martinville Historic District
Many residents of St. Martinville are descendants of Beausoleil Broussard, an Acadian leader and hero during the eighteenth century; as well as the Bienvenu and Duchamp families—French aristocrats who came to Louisiana fleeing the French Revolution. With more than 50 historic landmarks located downtown alone, St. Martinville’s Historic District is notable for its myriad contributions to Acadiana’s architecture and commerce. Many of the sites still host local businesses today. To view a map of all the places of interest in the historic district, click here.
St. Martin de Tours Church Square
Known as the “Mother Church of the Acadians,” St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church has served as a house of worship for the Cajun people since their arrival here in 1765. A must-see stop for its beautiful interior alone, St. Martin de Tours is the third oldest church in the state, and anchors St. Martin Square, which also includes the Presbytère, the Parish Hall, and the monuments honoring Evangeline and an Attakapas Tribe warrior.
To plan your next trip to St. Martin Parish in the historic heart of Cajun Country, head to cajuncountry.org.