St. Martinville, Louisiana (15)
St. Martinville is a small city in and the parish seat of St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, United States. It lies on Bayou Teche, sixteen miles south of Breaux Bridge, eighteen miles southeast of Lafayette, and nine miles north of New Iberia. The population was 6,989 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area.
St. Martinville is widely considered to be the birthplace of the Cajun culture and traditions, and it is in the heart of Cajun Country. There has been a true multicultural community in St. Martinville, with Cajuns, Creoles (French coming via the French West Islands - Guadeloupe, Martinique and Santo Domingo), French, Spaniards, Africans and African Americans.
Once New Orleans was founded and began to have epidemics, some New Orleanians escaped the city and came to St. Martinville. Its nickname, Petit Paris ("Little Paris"), dates from the era when St. Martinville was known as a cultural mecca with good hotels and a French Theater, the Duchamp Opera House (founded in 1830), that featured the best operas and witty comedies.
The third oldest town in Louisiana, St. Martinville has many buildings and homes with beautiful architecture, such as the historic St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church and La Maison Duchamp on Main Street. The church was dedicated to Martin of Tours in France, where a St Martin de Tours church can be found. There is also one in Layrac, France, the birthplace of Pierre Nezat who settled in 1768 in St Martinville.
St. Martinville is the site of the Evangeline Oak made famous in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem. It is also the location of an African American Museum, and is included as a destination on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.