History of the Four Corners of Lafayette, Louisiana
By: Chouroque et Copain
The term “Four Corners” is certainly not unique to Lafayette, LA. Just research that name and you will find thousands of usages for those words. But, if you were an easily impressed youngster who was born and raised near the intersection of highway 90 and 182 during the 40s, those Four Corners were your center of activities.
Looking back on land records at the turn of the 18th century and into the 19th century it is documented that the greater Four Corners area was owned by Olivier Boudreaux (Born: circa 1786) and later by his son Colonel Aurelien Drouzin Boudreaux (Born: 1819 Died: May 15, 1899). As a matter of fact, at one time Oliver and his son, Drouzin, owned a stretch of land approximately five miles in length. It began on the west side of the old Carencro Road, now known as St. Antoine street in the city limits of Lafayette, Louisiana, and extended to the city limits of Scott, Louisiana. The parcel of land was approximately one mile in width and included the land now referred to as the greater Four Corners area. Drouzin and Olivier granted a right of way to the Louisiana Western Railroad to construct the railroad which today extends along and north of the greater Four Corners area. Later, Drouzin developed the Boudreaux subdivision within the Four Corners area. He gave each of his children a large parcel of land in the subdivision. New Business and residences were soon to follow.
So the Four Corners area is not only the actual intersection but the general area within a reasonable distance in all directions from the intersection. The development of this area was primarily due to the Old Spanish Trail now US highway 90 which extends from California to Florida. The initial dirt road was used by cattlemen to move their herds from west Texas to the markets east of the Mississippi river. It was one of the first paved roadways in Louisiana. The main intersection north was not highway 182 but farther East at St. Antoine St. which is considered within the Four Corners area. Business quickly populated the four corners area because of its entrance into the western portion of Lafayette.
The mid-forties and the early fifties brought about the largest growth in and near the four corners. Night clubs were popular at that time and there were several in the area. Most notable was Toby’s Oak Grove Club which was nestled in a grove of beautiful live oaks on the South West corner of the intersection. On Saturday nights, one could hear the sounds of big bands such as Al Terry and his orchestra playing for the dancing pleasure of its patrons.
There were restaurants on all four corners and dozens of blinking neon lights beckoning the passing travelers to stop, dine and dance in style. Of course each corner had its favorite service station, ESSO, Texaco, Crown or Gulf, real service stations!! …where they checked the tires free of charge and sold gas for 15 cents a gallon. Of course, there was the favorite teenage hangout at Snacks. They offered malts, fries, and hamburgers for 15 cents and Tommy Dorsey’s “Boogie Woogie “on the Jukebox for just a nickel. Along with all these amenities, in the late forties the Four Corners got its own theater. It was named the PAT Theater. Now, folks no longer had to go into town to see a movie and the Four Corners was deemed to have reached its peak.
Just East of the Four Corners intersection along with the businesses, residential areas were established It was not uncommon to see children playing on the sidewalks well into the hot summer evenings. Each year there was a particular celebration where all the children in the Four Corner area worked diligently on floats made from shoe boxes. Bright colored cellophane was positioned over cutouts in the insides of the boxes to create colorful windows. The top of the shoe boxes were left open to vent the candles which were anchored in the bottom. Each child constructed their own float using their imagination, individual skills and whatever materials were available. A string, used to pull the float was attached to the front of the box. Finally, on the much anticipated night of the celebration, when nightfall arrived, they would light the candles and parade their floats up and down the sidewalks which were only on Cameron Street near the Four Corners. The glow of the candles reflecting through the cellophane ports cast colorful reflections along the sidewalks creating a festive mood. The processions continued until the children were summoned for bed time by their parents.
It wasn’t until these children of the forties were grown that they realized they had been celebrating the summer solstice and more specially the feast of The Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24) les feu de Saint Jean-Baptiste.
The Oak trees have been destroyed and the night clubs leveled for the construction of shopping centers and the widening of both Cameron Street and University Avenue. There are no longer any service stations. But I wonder: when driving by late at night… can you sometimes, in a passing fantasy, hear the music that once was part of the Four Corners???