Lake Charles, Louisiana facts for kids

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Lake Charles, Louisiana
City
City of Lake Charles
Clockwise from left: Downtown skyline; Golden Nugget Casino; L'Auberge du Lac Casino; Israel LaFleur Bridge; McNeese State University entrance plaza.
Clockwise from left: Downtown skyline; Golden Nugget Casino; L'Auberge du Lac Casino; Israel LaFleur Bridge; McNeese State University entrance plaza.
Official seal of Lake Charles, Louisiana
Seal
Nickname(s): The Lake Area, Lake "Chuck"
Country  United States
State  Louisiana
Parish Calcasieu
Founded March 7, 1861 as Charleston
Renamed March 16, 1867 as Lake Charles
Founded by Charles Sallier
Named for Charles Sallier
Area
 • City 44.8 sq mi (116 km2)
 • Land 42.1 sq mi (109 km2)
 • Water 2.7 sq mi (7 km2)
Elevation 13 ft (4 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 71,993
 • Density 1,711.8/sq mi (660.9/km2)
 • Urban 132,977
 • Metro 194,138
Demonym(s) Lake Charlesian
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CST (UTC-5)
ZIP Codes 70601, 70602, 70605, 70606, 70607, 70609, 70615, 70616, 70629
Area Code 337
Website www.cityoflakecharles.com

Lake Charles (French: Lac Charles) is the fifth-largest incorporated city in the U.S. state of Louisiana, located on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and the Calcasieu River. Founded in 1861 in Calcasieu Parish, it is a major industrial, cultural, and educational center in the southwest region of the state.

As of the 2010 census, the population was 71,993. Lake Charles is the principal city of the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area, having a population of 202,040. It is the larger principal city of the Lake Charles-Jennings Combined Statistical Area, with a population of 225,235. The 2010 population of the five-parish area of Southwest Louisiana was 292,619.

It is considered a regionally significant center of petrochemical refining, gaming, tourism, and education, being home to McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community College. Because of the lakes and waterways throughout the city, metropolitan Lake Charles is often referred to as the Lake Area.

History

Ryan Street Lake Charles 1903
Ryan Street in Lake Charles, 1903

On March 7, 1861, Lake Charles was officially incorporated as the town of Charleston, Louisiana. Six years after the city was incorporated, dissatisfaction over the name Charleston arose; on March 16, 1867, Charleston was renamed and incorporated as the town of Lake Charles. In 1910, a fire, known as the "Great Fire of 1910", devastated much of the city.

Ryan Street Crowd
A view of Downtown Lake Charles, circa 1917

However, Lake Charles soon rebuilt itself and continued to grow and expand in the twentieth century. The Charleston Hotel was completed in 1929, during the administration of Mayor Henry J. Geary. During and 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 75,000 people in the early 1980s, but with local economic recession, the population declined.

Current

With the advent of the gaming, manufacturing, and aviation maintenance industries, the city rebounded with a population of 71,993 as of 2010.

Geography

Henderson Bayou
Henderson Bayou

Lake Charles, located on a level plain about 30 miles (48 km) from the Gulf of Mexico, has an elevation of 13 feet (4.0 m), and is located on the banks of the Calcasieu River in southwestern Louisiana. It borders both Lake Charles and Prien Lake. Contraband Bayou, Henderson Bayou, and English Bayou flow through the city. Oak trees and pine trees dot the landscape, as the lumber industry, once the main economic engine of the area, can attest to. The Calcasieu Ship Channel, which allows large ocean-going vessels to sail up from the Gulf, also borders the city.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 44.8 square miles (116.0 km2), of which 42.0 square miles (108.9 km2) is land and 2.7 square miles (7.1 km2), or 6.12%, is water.

Climate

Lake Charles is tied with Port Arthur, Texas, and Astoria, Oregon, as the most humid city in the contiguous United States, and the second-most humid measured location behind unincorporated Quillayute, Washington. The average relative humidity in Lake Charles is 90% in the morning, and 72% in the afternoon.

Climate data for Lake Charles, Louisiana
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 87
(30.6)
87
(30.6)
94
(34.4)
95
(35)
100
(37.8)
106
(41.1)
103
(39.4)
107
(41.7)
105
(40.6)
103
(39.4)
93
(33.9)
89
(31.7)
107
(-17.8)
Average high °F (°C) 60.6
(15.89)
64.5
(18.06)
71.3
(21.83)
77.4
(25.22)
84.1
(28.94)
88.9
(31.61)
91.0
(32.78)
91.3
(32.94)
87.7
(30.94)
80.5
(26.94)
70.6
(21.44)
63.3
(17.39)
77.6
(25.333)
Average low °F (°C) 41.2
(5.11)
44.3
(6.83)
50.8
(10.44)
57.2
(14)
65.7
(18.72)
72.1
(22.28)
74.3
(23.5)
73.6
(23.11)
69.1
(20.61)
58.6
(14.78)
49.7
(9.83)
43.3
(6.28)
58.33
(14.625)
Record low °F (°C) 12
(-11.1)
3
(-16.1)
21
(-6.1)
30
(-1.1)
40
(4.4)
51
(10.6)
60
(15.6)
59
(15)
45
(7.2)
30
(-1.1)
20
(-6.7)
11
(-11.7)
3
(-17.8)
Precipitation inches (mm) 5.52
(140.2)
3.28
(83.3)
3.54
(89.9)
3.64
(92.5)
6.06
(153.9)
6.07
(154.2)
5.13
(130.3)
4.85
(123.2)
5.95
(151.1)
3.94
(100.1)
4.61
(117.1)
4.60
(116.8)
57.19
(1,452.6)
Source: NWS Lake Charles Office

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 838
1890 3,442 310.7%
1900 6,680 94.1%
1910 11,449 71.4%
1920 13,088 14.3%
1930 15,791 20.7%
1940 21,207 34.3%
1950 41,272 94.6%
1960 63,392 53.6%
1970 77,998 23.0%
1980 75,226 −3.6%
1990 70,580 −6.2%
2000 71,757 1.7%
2010 71,993 0.3%
Est. 2015 76,070 5.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2010 census, the population was 71,993. In 2010, the population density was 1,711.8 people per square mile (689.7/km²). There were 32,469 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 47% White, 47% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 0.47% from other races, 2.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.9% of the population.

There were 28,228 households, out of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.8% were married couples living together, 18.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% were non-families. 33.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.13.

In 2010, the population was spread out with 27% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 20 to 24, 24.8% from 25 to 44, 25% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 90.9 males. The percentage of males was 45.7% versus 54.3% for females.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,001. The per capita income for the city was $22,855. 20.9% of the population was below the poverty line.

Culture

Arts and culture

Old City Hall LC
Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center

Lake Charles has a strong Creole & Cajun culture because of its location in south Louisiana. The city has its own symphony orchestra, the Lake Charles Symphony. It was founded in 1938 and hosts concerts at the Rosa Hart Theatre, which has a capacity of over 2,000.

Lake Charles is home to a number of museums and art galleries. The largest, Imperial Calcasieu Museum, features a permanent historic exhibit with artifacts and an art gallery. Its grounds are home to the Sallier oak tree, which is around 400 years old. The Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center is used as exhibition space; moving art exhibits are displayed at this public art gallery each month. It also hosts the Charlestown Farmers' Market, which provides a venue for local farmers and merchants to sell goods. The USS Orleck Naval Museum, a naval destroyer from 1945, is open for public tours as a veterans memorial and museum. It is located on the river in North Lake Charles.

The Central School Arts and Humanities Center, located in the historic Charpentier District, is owned by the city. Charpentier is French for carpenter, a reference to the carpenter-architects who built the mixed-style homes in the district. Central School features the Black Heritage Art Gallery, which is on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail as well as the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, which features extravagant costumes and an interactive float. It has the largest collection of Mardi Gras memorabilia in the South. Other studios and cultural activities include the Art Associates Gallery, Studio 347 Gallery, the Lake Charles Symphony, and the Lake Charles Community Band.

McNeese State University annually produces the Banners Series, a series of various musical and theatrical performances. Banners also hosts lectures and presentations from notable persons and academics. Local theaters include the Lake Charles Little Theatre, the Artists Civic Theatre and Studio (ACTS), and the Children's Theatre.

Mardi Gras Lake Charles
Mardi Gras parade in downtown Lake Charles.

Mardi Gras

Lake Charles Mardi Gras Museum 05
Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu
Boardwalk at Lake Charles, Louisiana
Lake Charles Boardwalk

Mardi Gras in Lake Charles has a long history dating back to 1882, when Momus, King of Mardi Gras, landed his royal yacht at the foot of Pujo Street 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 Lake Charles was staged in 1964. The full revival of Mardi Gras in Lake Charles was not realized until 1979, when several Krewe captains formed the "Krewe of Krewes", with the primary 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 festival. Mardi Gras in Lake Charles regularly draws in crowds of 150,000.

Contraband Days

Many festivals are held at the Civic Center. The most popular, Contraband Days, is hosted on the Civic Center grounds and lakefront. Contraband Days is a twelve-day annual festival held during the first two weeks of May. The celebrations are filled with savory Cajun food, family fun, and live entertainment, including several national acts. The festival is regularly attended by more than 200,000 people, making it one of the largest celebrations in Louisiana. In a reference to the legends of piracy on the lake and Contraband Bayou, the festival begins when the pirate Jean Lafitte and his crew capture the city and force the mayor to walk the plank.

Cultural events

Some of the city's cultural events include the Martin Luther King Festival, Livestock Show & Rodeo, Black Heritage Festival, Garden Festival, Palm Sunday Tour of Homes, Downtown at Sundown, Memorial Day Avenue of Flags, Crawfish Festival, Asian/American Culturefest, Cajun French, Creole, Zydeco Music & Zydeco Trail Rides, Food Festivals, Marshland Festival, Gatorman Triathlon, Music & Food Festival, Arts Fest, and Riverside Fall Festival.

Sports and recreation

Bonnettefield
Cowboy Stadium

Lake Charles is home to the McNeese Cowboys, whose football team hosts games at Cowboy Stadium which has a seating capacity of 17,410. Burton Coliseum hosts the Cowboys' basketball teams. Golf is popular at the city's Mallard Cove Golf Course. Other golf courses include Gray Plantation Golf Course, Lake Charles Country Club Golf Course, the Contraband Bayou Golf Club, and the Country Club at Golden Nugget. Gray Plantation Golf Course is featured on Louisiana's Audubon Golf Trail. The city has 31 parks, many of which include playground equipment, athletic facilities, and walking paths. Shiver-Me-Timbers Millennium Park, located downtown, was built entirely by volunteers in 2000. Adventure Cove, a state-of-the-art park, was also built by volunteers, and is specifically designed for handicapped children. The South Lake Charles Little League has had nationally-winning teams televised on ESPN. Hunting and fishing are popular with both residents and visitors to the Lake Area. An All-American Road, the Creole Nature Trail - Louisiana's Outback - brings tourists to Lake Charles and throughout Southwest Louisiana.

Religion

Christianity is the predominant religion in the Lake Area. Roman Catholicism is the largest individual denomination, claiming about 50% of the population. Lake Charles is also home to various Protestant Christian denominations, the largest being the Southern Baptist congregation with 30%. There is a ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lake Charles. There are also religious communities from other faiths such as Islam and Judaism.

Cultural references

  • The musical Caroline, or Change by Tony Kushner, which was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2004, is set in Lake Charles.
  • Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Angels in America, grew up in Lake Charles.
  • Lake Charles is mentioned in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. After leaving Sal Paradise in Mexico, Dean Moriarty's car breaks down in Lake Charles.
  • Lucinda Williams, singer and songwriter, wrote the song Lake Charles, about her hometown.
  • Lake Charles is mentioned as the traveller's destination in the song "Up on Cripple Creek" by The Band

Films

Lake Charles is featured or mentioned in The Drowning Pool, The Beyond, A Taste of Louisiana with Chef John Folse & Co., Passion Fish, Good Eats, UFC 22: There Can Be Only One Champion, UFC 24: First Defense, Blue Vinyl, Little Chenier, Mercy, Split Ends, All Over But to Cry, Film Hustle, Good Boy., and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Sister cities

See also: List of sister cities in the United States

Images for kids


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