It was once called La Chapelle and was bought by a Capuchin missionary by the name of Père Antoine Désiré Mégret for $900. He eventually named the land Abbeville, after his hometown in France. Abbeville is now a humble city with more than 12,000 residents, but back in the early 1840s, only two people had lived there: Joseph LeBlanc and his wife Isabelle Broussard. Father Megret had turned their house into the first church, which was named after St. Ann. Unfortunately, it burned down and was replaced with the St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church.
Abbeville is one of the few cities in Louisiana that has numerous historic buildings listed in the National Historic Register because many of its establishments and houses have been well preserved. Father Megret fashioned the small community in the style of a French provincial village. In the middle of the city is the Magdalen Square, which is surrounded by oak trees and sports a fountain and a gazebo, perfect for locals and tourists to take pictures in and observe the tiny, bustling city. In the square also stands a statue of Father Megret.
Around the city, there are various walking tours and historical buildings to visit. There’s the Vermilion Parish Courthouse, a two-story white column building, the Downtown Abbeville walking tours along Magdalen Square, Palmetto Island State Park, the Vermilion Gator Farm for the more adventurous and curious tourists, and the Vermilion Parish Library main branch.
Since Abbeville is home to many historical remnants, it makes sense to drop by for a visit at the Louisiana Military and Hall of Fame Museum at the Chris Crusta Memorial Airport. The museum displays various exhibits and memorabilia in honor of Louisiana’s military veterans and those who died in the line of duty. Some of the exhibits inside the establishment are the Higgins boat, a US Army-issue jeep, and a Bell helicopter.
The museum also hosts various events for visitors and veterans like the Skeet Shoots, veteran job fairs, induction ceremonies, and a special celebration to commemorate the soldiers from Louisiana. Aside from the military museum, there are also places like the Abbey Players, Inc. Community Theatre, the Lafitte Cinema, the Sam Guarino Blacksmith Shop Museum, the AA Comeaux Park, Abbeville Country Club, Planters Rice Mill, the C.S. Steen Syrup Mill, the Vermilion Historical Society, Allume Society Frank’s Theater, and the Abbeville Cultural and Historical Museum and Art Gallery.
The Abbeville Cultural and Historical Museum and Art Gallery is handled by the Abbeville Cultural and Historical Alliance, composed of the Vermilion Historical Society, the Vermilion Arts Council, the Acadian Center, and the Giant Omelette Celebration. The museum and art gallery displays various photographs, documents, artwork, and artifacts from the international omelette celebrations.
Many of the art displayed in the gallery are by local artists. Managed by the Vermilion Arts Council, the art gallery also hosts workshops and art lessons for children. It’s not just stationary art that the gallery displays. Every year, for the Carousel of Arts, spectators can witness a dazzling array of performances that celebrate music, art, food, history, and culture in Abbeville City’s Vermilion Parish, Louisiana.
Other exhibits at the museum involve the famed Morgan Effigy, a deer antler with a carving of a person. It was found on a Native American mound in Pecan Island in the parish. According to historical documents, the carving dates back to 900 A.D. Aside from the exhibits and live performances, spectators and visitors will be able to witness the Giant Omelette Celebration, which is celebrated by sister cities around the world: Bessières, France; Fréjus, France; Dumbea, New Caladonia; Granby, Quebec; Malmédy, Belgium; and Abbeville, Louisiana.
This international festival is rooted in the legend that Napoleon and his army made a sojourn at Bessières, France one night. The local innkeeper made the general an omelette, which he loved. He ordered the townspeople to make him and his army a giant omelette the next day. The Giant Omelette Celebration museum showcases the costumes and equipment used in making the giant omelette. In fact, inquisitive visitors will learn that over 5,000 eggs and more than a dozen chefs are needed to make the dish.
For those who want to explore the more historical remnants not found inside a museum, Abbeville offers its Commercial Historic District and its Residential Historic District. The St. Mary Magdalen Church, the rectory, and the cemetery are part of the city’s historic areas, having survived through the years since the city’s birth. The Ovide Broussard House, Chauviere House, Gordy House, Lyons House, and the Caldwell House are also part of the historic list. There are also the Richard Cattle Auction Barn and the St. Mary Congregational Church, which were also added to the register later in the 1980s.
For a small city, Abbeville is one of the most exciting places to visit and discover. In fact, the city is one of the main locations for the TV show “True Detective”. Its historic streets and villages give it a traditional atmosphere. It is also home to several festivals throughout the year like the Daylily Festival and Garden Show, the Louisiana Cattle Festival, and the Les Lumieres du Village d’Abbeville. With so many things to do in the city, no wonder Abbeville continues to be one of the most visited places in Louisiana.