Did you know there is a history museum in Lake Charles?I sure didn’t until a few years ago when I saw the Imperial Calcasieu Museum on a list of extra credit opportunities for one of my college classes, and I enjoyed it so much I knew I had to head back and share this amazing find with my mom and our readers!
The Imperial Calcasieu Museum is located at 204 West Sallier Street in Lake Charles on the site of the winter home of Charles Sallier, one of the founders of Lake Charles. It opened in 1963 to celebrate the original Imperial Calcasieu region now split into the five parishes of Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jeff Davis. The exhibits range from locally found arrowheads to WWII memorabilia to antique toys and so much in between, and it’s the perfect place to learn more about the area whether you’re just visiting or have lived here all your life.
There is so much to see, we can’t share everything!
Here are our five favorite finds at the museum:
1. The steering wheel from the Borealis Rex Paddleboat – Measuring over six feet in diameter, it’s an impressive sight. The Borealis Rex brought mail, goods, and passengers between Cameron and Lake Charles from 1905 to 1930.
2. John James Audubon’s beautiful Birds of America collection and Quadruped collection – We learned that in order to paint the animals, Audubon first had to kill the specimens then posed them in the scene. His work is simply amazing.
3. The 1910 Lake Charles fire exhibit – This impressive display shows before and after photographs of the fire that destroyed City Hall, the Catholic Church, and the Catholic School among other buildings for seven city blocks. They also have water grenades, signage, and other interesting artifacts from this great disaster.
4. A working Edison phonograph and horn from 1908 – This piece is not only easy on the eyes, but it still plays lovely music!
5. An original World War I woman’s uniform from a local resident – Originally bought from Abercrombie & Fitch for $135, this uniform looks like it could have been purchased yesterday.
We could go on and on with our list because there are so many other interesting artifacts. They also have four scenes set up with mannequins and proper pieces of history, including an old-time barber shop with a beautiful display of shaving cream mugs that once belonged to local men.
While all the exhibits are fantastic, our absolute favorite part of the museum was our personal tour guide the museum’s Executive Director, Susan Reed. She is so knowledgeable and welcoming, and she shared so many interesting facts with us!
The museum also has the Gibson-Barham Gallery which displays revolving fine art, cultural exhibits, and even live plays! We were able to take a sneak peak at the “Feathers and Fins” exhibit which included works of art from local public school K-12 kids. The next exhibit is “Playing with Fire” and opens May 15 from 6-8 and will run until June 27. It features pieces from local ceramic artists.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children and senior citizens. Museum Members are admitted free.