Walnut Grove

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The namesakes honored in Walnut Grove played an influential role in the history of Louisiana.

  • Sallier Cabin
  • Borealis Rex
  • Borealis Rex
  • Orange Grove
  • Lover's Lane - 1909

Names & Historical Significances

On our journey to find the perfect setting to build our community, we ended our quest once we found the most serene area in Lake Charles. Following great southern traditions, our search came upon an area that was once known as Walnut Grove. This picturesque area was named after the black walnut trees that grew in groves around the property and was well known for being one of the most popular places for social gatherings in the last century.

Our objective is to recreate that original spirit of community as we have begun to develop this property. We gave great consideration to the naming of our streets and parks to honor the people and places that impacted our area in meaningful ways. We strive to stay true to the values of the people that treasured this area so long ago.

The following excerpt came from the local newspaper, the American Press describing the area.

“Going walking on Sunday afternoon was quite the thing. Crowds would meet at some given point and walk to Walnut Grove.

These were important social gatherings that everyone attended. Parties going out picture-taking went along the lake front, walking a mile or two to get to Walnut Grove, taking pictures along the way.

Young men of courting age would take their girls on buggy rides because the long, slow ride around the lake gave ample time for conversation.

The path leading to Walnut Grove went along the lake front. No road could have been more beautiful than this winding, shimmering white road with a wall of Cherokee roses giving their spicy fragrance to the air on one side and the shining waters of the lake on the other. By day it was radiant in sun and shadow and on moonlight nights … it was breathtaking in its beauty. The dark, silent water, overshadowed with cypress trees from which Spanish moss hung in graceful plumes, and the white shell beach combined to make it the most romantic spot.

It was a magnificent grove of black walnut trees. The banks were high, the shade

dense and cool, and huge grapevines that lent themselves to making swings added to the children’s enjoyment of the place.

The origin of the black walnut trees is unknown. Some believe that they were planted by a man who owned a nearby mill; others believe they grew wild; although there aren’t many other walnut trees around the community. It was easily accessed by land or sea and offered its peaceful banks to fishermen who liked the spot and to young and old who enjoyed sitting by the river’s brim in a solitary contemplation of nature’s beauties.

Soon Walnut Grove gave way to the march of progress and the docks now give life and action to Lake Charles where once quietness, shade, verdure and the beauties of nature once held sway.”

—LC American Press

Street Names

Sallier Street

History records Charles Sallier as a noble man who fled to Louisiana to escape the French Revolution. He settled in the area around the lake, which came to be known as Charlie’s Lake, later Charles Town, then Charleston and finally Lake Charles. One of Charles Sallier’s friends was the legendary pirate Jean Lafitte. Lafitte was viewed as a war hero, giving support to Andrew Jackson in the battle of New Orleans. After Lafitte was run out of New Orleans for questionable business practices, Charles Sallier helped him navigate the narrow channels of the Calcasieu River.

Bartelmy Street

Charles Sallier married Catherine LeBleu. The LeBleu’s were the first recorded Europeans to settle in Calcasieu Parish. Bartelmy LeBleu, a relative from Bordeaux, France, settled in Calcasieu Parish; in fact, his original homestead was part of the first Walnut Grove neighborhood.

Rex Lane/Borealis Green

Borealis Rex was a ferryboat, providing passage from Cameron to Lake Charles. The parties at night were legendary, full of glamor and dancing. Politicians and dignitaries enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Calcasieu River.

Jabez Drive

In the late 1880s, Jabez Bunting Watkins, a banker, lawyer and land developer, launched a campaign to bring people of the highest caliber to Southwest Louisiana, to a place he described as a paradise. He founded many businesses in Lake Charles, including a bank, sugar mill, land and timber companies and a newspaper. He generously donated land for schools and churches, as well as an orphanage. His efforts tripled the population and helped business and community life thrive.

William Street & Burton Drive

William T. Burton played a prominent role in the development of Lake Charles and surrounding communities. He ran several businesses through his years, buying land across the state, as well as engaging in the cattle, rice and sugar mill businesses. During the Great Depression, he bought the struggling Calcasieu National Bank, restructured it, paid its debts in full and formed the Calcasieu-Marine National Bank. He gave generously to the community, especially in the areas of education, health, civic and cultural endeavors. Mr. Burton was the great-grandfather of the founder of Walnut Grove, Jack E. Lawton, Jr.

Public Spaces

Charleston Park

By the 1860’s the area owned by Charles Sallier was commonly referred to as Charles Town and in 1861 it was incorporated under the name Charleston. A few years later, in 1868, it was reincorporated under the current name, Lake Charles.

Contraband Alley

Named after the bayou on the southern edge of Walnut Grove, it also offers a nod to Pirates Alley in New Orleans in name, historical planning and architectural context. The legend of Pirates Alley is that, one foggy evening in 1814, General Andrew Jackson stepped out of the Cabildo to meet in secret with the privateer, Jean Lafitte. Lafitte’s brother, Pierre was arrested and imprisoned by the U.S. government for smuggling and piracy. Lafitte negotiated with Jackson to secure Pierre’s “escape” from prison in exchange for intelligence on the British prior to the Battle of New Orleans. The prison was in the Cabildo, which was also the government building for the newly-created State of Louisiana and located right across the alleyway.

Great Lawn

Lovers’ Lane Promenade

Lovers’ Lane was the name of the route that led to Walnut Grove, where people strolled across a bridge beside the lake which radiated romance to many courting couples.

The Groves of Bunting Green & Cottage Courts

This area was named after the orange and magnolia groves that used to be in the smaller gathering places of Lake Charles. A vast orange grove was planted by J. B. Watkins along Shell Beach Drive and a magnolia grove was on the Calcasieu River at the head of Ryan Street which was old Hartman Ferry Road. It is said that Cameron and Calcasieu parishes were filled with blossoms and the orange groves’ sweet fragrances filled the air.

Marion Park

Calcasieu Parish was formed in 1840 out of St. Landry Parish, one of the original parishes formed by the Louisiana Legislature. This area of land, known as Marsh Bluff Bayou, was designated to be the seat of justice; a courthouse and jail were erected. This place was given the name Marion after General Francis Marion, a revolutionary war hero. The first courthouse was a log cabin and was completed in August of 1841. In 1852, Jacob Ryan, known as the father of Lake Charles, was elected as sheriff. He decided that the parish seat should be in Lake Charles. With the help of Samuel Kirby, he loaded the Courthouse and Jail on a raft and floated them to Lake Charles where the Parish seat remains today.Parish seat remains today.

Images provided by McNeese State University Archives

1575 West Sallier Street, Lake Charles, LA 70601 ~ 337-497-0825 ~ info@walnutgrove.cc

Walnut Grove

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