St. Landry Parish Courthouse

On April 10, 1805, Governor William C. C. Claiborne signed an act, previously approved the Legislative Council, establishing twelve political subdivisions in the Orleans Territory.  One of these was the County of Opelousas, the boundaries of which were consistent with the Ecclesiastical Parish of Saint Landry.

Two years later, on March 31, 1807, Claiborne signed legislation which created 19 parishes, Saint Landry being the 18th and encompassing most of Southwest Louisiana

The construction of the first Parish Courthouse remains rather vague.   On March 3, 1805, the Legislative council approved a measure for the County Judge, with a majority of the Justices of the Peace, to impose a direct tax on real and personal property for the construction of a courthouse and jail.

Later, on the 14th of October 1805, the County of Opelousas purchased real estate from Stephen Lamorandier for the establishment of local government.  Nevertheless, extant court records indicate that as early as 1806 a crude structure existed on the present courthouse square.

Apparently court sessions and local government functioned in this structure until it was replaced by a larger brick building.

In 1822, the parish's growing population required a larger building to meet local governmental requirements.  In that year the parish entered into contracts to construct a brick structure.

Later, parish records indicate that the 1820's courthouse was subsequently replaced in 1847 by a more substantial two-story, frame structure flanked by two outbuildings housing the District Clerk and the Recorders offices and crowned by a cupola -

The Civil War witnessed a new chapter in the region 5 political development.  Following the fall of flew Orleans in 1862, Louisiana's Confederate government fled westward to the Town of Opelousas.  The 1847 building served as its temporary capitol.

Apparently, as a result of protracted neglect during the conflict, the courthouse fell into a serious case of disrepair. In April, 1866, the parish entered into a contract to repair the ancient building.  These repairs, however, failed to arrest the structure' S deterioration,
In the early morning hours of March 22, 1886, a quirk of fate destroyed the old building, for a fire engulfed the antebellum structure. Later, in 1886, a Victorian-style courthouse replaced its predecessor and served the parish needs until 1939 when it was replaced with the present grey-stone faced, art Deco style structure, popular in the 1920's and 1930's

In summary, five courthouses have stood on the courthouse square in the City of Opelousas.  This site has been the seat of local government from 1806 to the present time.  It provided judicial services not only to one parish but to most of Southwest Louisiana

Sources:

Ct. Bldg. Contract C.O.B. F-i, p. 266, Sept. 14, 1822
Ct. Bldg. Contract C.0.B. F-i, p. 267, Sept. 14, 1822
Ct. Bldg. Contract
Civil Mtge. Bk. 4, p. 186, Dec. 22, 1847
Misc. Bk. 3, p. 259, April 2, 1866

Conrad, Glenn Pt-, et al The Courthouses of Louisiana,
Lafayette. Center for Louisiana Studies, 1980.