Lafayette (Louisiana), city in southern Louisiana and seat of Lafayette Parish. It is located on the Vermilion River, which connects the city to the Intracoastal Waterway. Situated in a productive farm area, Lafayette is an important service center for the region’s petroleum and natural gas industries. Manufactures include cordage, packing materials, processed foods, and jewelry. Commercial air transportation is through Lafayette Regional Airport. The University of Southwestern Louisiana (1898) is located in the city.
Points of interest include Evangeline Downs Thoroughbred racetrack; Acadian Village, a folklife museum with restored buildings from the 19th century; and the Lafayette Museum, housed in the former home of Alexander Mouton, who served as a United States senator and governor of Louisiana in the early 19th century. At nearby Vermilionville, costumed craftspeople and performers re-create a Louisiana bayou town of the period 1765 to 1890. Lafayette’s annual Mardi Gras celebrations are said to rival the more famous festivities in New Orleans. The Festivals Acadiens is held in September to celebrate the Acadian heritage through food, crafts, and music.
Exiles from Acadia in Canada settled the site in the 1770s as Vermilionville. Incorporated as a town in 1836, the area’s economic fortunes improved with the arrival of the first railroad in 1881. The community was renamed in 1884 for the Marquis de Lafayette, the French general who aided the patriots during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Lafayette incorporated as a city in 1914. Lafayette’s economy suffered when oil and gas prices dropped in the late 1980s, leading to diversification with special emphasis on the medical, retail, and tourism sectors.
Lafayette covers a land area of 123 sq km (48 sq mi), with a mean elevation of 12 m (40 ft). According to the 2000 census, whites are 68.2 percent of the population, blacks 28.5 percent, Asians 1.4 percent, and Native Americans 0.2 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders represent less than 0.1 percent of the population. The remainder are of mixed heritage or did not report race. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 1.9 percent of the people. Population 81,961 (1980); 94,440 (1990); 111,272 (2002 estimate).Tags: Intracoastal Waterway, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, University of Southwestern Louisiana