On the Main Highway in St. Martinville is the oldest state park facility in Louisiana. The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site.
There you’ll be greeted by Mrs. Mary Guirard who’s been at the historic site for many years. She spoke French as a child but had to relearn it as an adult.
“I speak French now with my friends who speak Cajun French,” says Guirard. “They roll their eyes and tell me, ‘I don’t speak the good French.’ ”
Interpretive Ranger Philip Frey says Maison Olivier is the centerpiece of the park. It’s the last Creole Plantation Home west of the Mississippi!
“In 1934 the Long Administration opened us as Louisiana’s first state park. Originally we were going to be a monument park to Evangeline. So for many years, we were the only Acadian park on the Bayou Teche,” says Frey.
The site gives guests a window into life in the 1850s.
“We focus very much on agriculture and average daily life in the 19th century. So we sort of show what life was like as a Creole Slave, a Creole Plantation owner, an Acadian farmer,” Frey says. “We do a lot of living history administrations to sort of demonstrate that.”
On this visit, Tommy Guidry, who works as a blacksmith, was making a belaying pin, a tool to help undo knots.
Guidry explains that since there weren’t any big retail hardware stores, everyone had to come to the blacksmith to have everyday items made.
Pots and pans, door handles, door hinges, hooks of various sorts were all made by the local blacksmith, according to Guidry.
The park offers field trips all year long. And as they dress in character, they truly come to life for some of the kids!
“It’s interesting,” says Frey. “No matter what their age, usually their first question is, ‘Do you live here?’ And we always kind of have to say, ‘well no, but if I did, this is how I would live.’ ”
Frey says that the goal is to get kids away from the video games and head outside to the state parks. This year The Historic Site is doing a program called “A day in the life of an Acadian Child.” Frey says the program will showcase toys and games from the mid 19th century.
And for all those games, no USB port will be required. Frey adds that he’s sure the games will get kids outside.
Longfellow-Evangeline Historic Site is open Wednesday’s through Sunday year-round. you can visit the website for the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.