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Lafayette (; French: [lafajɛt]) is a city in and the parish seat of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, located along the Vermilion River in the southwestern part of the state. The city of Lafayette is the fourth-largest in the state, with a population of 127,657 according to 2015 U.S. Census estimates. It is the principal city of the Lafayette, Louisiana Metropolitan Statistical Area, with a 2015 estimated population of 490,488. The larger trade area or Combined Statistical Area of Lafayette-Opelousas-Morgan City CSA was 627,146 in 2015. Its nickname is The Hub City.
The Attakapas Native Americans inhabited this area at the time of European encounter. French colonists founded the first European settlement, Petit Manchac, a trading post along the Vermilion River. In the late eighteenth century, numerous Acadian refugees settled in this area, after being expelled from Canada after Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years' War. They intermarried with other settlers, forming what is known as Cajun culture, which continued as strongly French language and Catholic religion.
Jean Mouton, of Acadian descent, donated land to the Catholic church for construction of a small Catholic chapel at this site. In 1824 this area was selected for the Lafayette Parish seat and known as Vermilionville, for its location on the river. In 1836 the Louisiana Legislature granted it incorporation.
The area was developed for agriculture, primarily sugar plantations, which depended on the labor of numerous enslaved Africans. They made up a large percentage of the antebellum population. According to U.S. Census data, 41 percent of the population of Lafayette Parish was enslaved in 1830, and that number increased to 49.6 percent by 1860. A small percentage of free people of color lived in Lafayette Parish as well; they made up 3 percent to a low of 2.4 percent between 1830 and 1860.
In 1884, Vermilionville was renamed for General Lafayette, a French aristocrat who had fought with and significantly aided the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The city and parish economy continued to be based on agriculture into the early 20th century. After the Civil War, most of this work was done by freedmen, who worked as sharecroppers. In the 20th century, mechanization of agriculture reduced the need for farm workers.
In the 1940s, after oil was discovered in the parish, the petroleum and natural gas industries became dominant.
Lafayette is considered to be the center of Acadiana, the area of Cajun and Louisiana Creole culture in the state. It developed following the relocation of Acadians after their expulsion by the British from eastern Canada in the late 18th century following France's defeat in the Seven Years' War. There is also a strong Louisiana Creole influence in the area, as this mixed-race population became landowners and businesspeople.
Lafayette is located at 30°13′N 92°2′W (30.2139, −92.0294) and has an elevation of 36 feet (11.0 m). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 49.2 square miles (127 km2), of which 49.1 square miles (127 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.19%) is water.
Lafayette is located on the West Gulf Coastal Plain. The site was part of the seabed during the earlier Quaternary Period. During this time, the Mississippi River cut a 325-foot-deep (99 m) valley between what is now Lafayette and Baton Rouge. This valley was filled and is now the Atchafalaya Basin. Lafayette is located on the western rim of this valley.
This is part of the southwestern Louisiana Prairie Terrace; it is higher and not made of wetlands like much of the surrounding areas to the south and west of Lafayette. Lafayette does not suffer significant flooding problems, outside of local flash flooding. Lafayette has developed on both sides of the Vermilion River. Other significant waterways in the city are Isaac Verot Coulee, Coulee Mine, Coulee des Poches, and Coulee Ile des Cannes, which are natural drainage canals that lead to the Vermilion River.
Lafayette's climate is described as humid subtropical using Köppen climate classification. Lafayette has year-round precipitation, especially during summertime. Lafayette's highest temperature was 107 °F (42 °C). Lafayette has hot, moist summers and mild, damp winters.
As of the census of 2010, there were 120,623 people, 43,506 households, and 27,104 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,316.7 people per square mile (894.5/km²). There were 46,865 housing units at an average density of 984.7 per square mile (380.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 68.23% White, 28.51% African American, 0.25% Native American, 1.44% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.58% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.88% of the population. In 2010, 84.2% of the population over the age of five spoke English at home, and 11.5% of the population spoke French or Cajun French, a dialect that developed in Louisiana.
There were 43,506 households out of which 31.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.9% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. Nearly 29.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.07.
In the city, the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 13.3% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 11.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,996, and the median income for a family was $47,783. Males had a median income of $37,729 versus $23,606 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,031. About 11.6% of families and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.3% of those under age 18 and 14.5% of those age 65 or over.
The public schools in the parish are run by the Lafayette Parish School System. The system has 33 schools, 21 elementary schools, 12 middle schools, and seven high schools. The LPSS offers nine career academies at the high school level, school curricula designed to prepare students in certain career fields.
The nine academies are:
The LPSS also offer schools of choice, a program to improve racial diversity at schools. Accepted students are allowed to attend schools outside their school zone (but still within the parish) to receive their state-mandated core curriculum using specialized themes or programs. This is available at all levels, elementary, middle, and high schools. It is designed to provide a more interesting learning experience for the students in the program.
Lafayette is home to a large Roman Catholic population. They support many private parochial schools, with grades from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Lafayette has one university, one community college, and two vocational colleges. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is part of the University of Louisiana System. It is the second-largest university in the state, with an enrollment of approximately 17,508. Schools and colleges related to the institution have been located in Lafayette since 1898.
One of the newest college systems in Louisiana, South Louisiana Community College, is headquartered in Lafayette. SLCC partnered with Acadian Ambulance to form the National EMS Academy, which offers EMT-Basic and EMT-Paramedic certification. SLCC is part of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Louisiana Technical College (Lafayette campus) is part of the Louisiana Technical College system, which in turn is part of the Louisiana Community and Technical college system. It offers associate degrees in several fields. is a vocational school that offers a few bachelor's degree programs, many associate degree programs, along with a few diploma programs.
Lafayette's major healthcare facilities are:
See also Notable local politicians
Since the consolidation of city and parish governments, Lafayette's chief executive is known as the city-parish president. Republican Joel Robideaux was elected to this office most recently.
Some residents did not like the consolidated government, but in 2011, parish voters rejected a proposal to separate parish and city governments. Under consolidation, the City of Lafayette and Parish of Lafayette have a common representative body and executive officer. Public Works and other services, such as Land Use and Plat Review, are operated by Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) to serve the City of Lafayette and unincorporated areas of Lafayette Parish, and by contract to some, but not all of the area municipalities. Zoning Rules apply only within the City of Lafayette.
Some neighboring municipalities have adopted their own planning and zoning protocols. The suburban and rural cities and towns maintain independent city councils, local executives, police and fire departments, as well as other public services. The Lafayette Parish School System operates independently of any municipality, and its jurisdiction is coterminous with the Parish of Lafayette.
Lafayette is served by five police agencies:
Lafayette is home to the National Guard headquarters of the 256th Infantry Brigade, a military unit of more than 3,000 soldiers. The unit served in Iraq in the years of 2004–2005. The brigade was deployed again in January 2010.
Until 2014, Lafayette was also home to the United States Marine Corps Reserve Unit, F. Co. Anti-Terrorism Battalion commanded by Captain Cole Clements. This unit went on several deployments, many related to the Iraq War. In 2014 F. Co. Anti-Terrorism Battalion was decommissioned, to be replaced with H&S Co. Det. 4 4th Tanks Tow and Scouts, 4th MARDIV.
Lafayette is served by Lafayette Utilities System (LUS), a city-parish government-run, publicly owned utility company. This city-owned public water and electricity utility was created in 1897.
Both municipal electricity and water services have been continuously provided by LUS to the residents of the City of Lafayette since that time. LUS has expanded to provide electricity, drinking water, and sewage treatment throughout the City of Lafayette, and to some unincorporated parts of Lafayette Parish. LUS also provides bulk sales to the water systems of most surrounding municipalities.
In 2009 LUS installed infrastructure for a fiber telecommunications network. Called LUSFiber, the network provides digital cable, telephone service, and high speed internet to all households in Lafayette.
Natural gas service is supplied by Atmos Energy.
Local land line telephone service is served by AT&T. Cox Communications and LUS Fiber provide Voice over Internet Protocol phone service.
Cable television service in Lafayette is provided by Cox Communications. Lafayette Utilities System provides FTTH video services through LUSFiber. DirecTV and Dish Network both include Lafayette TV stations in their local packages.
Lafayette has some manufacturing and fabrication businesses, including Frank's Casing Crew and CIS Hammers.
The city has an IT community including such businesses as:
Cultural organizations include the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and Conservatory of Music, Chorale Acadienne, Lafayette Ballet Theatre and Dance Conservatory, The Lafayette Concert Band, and Performing Arts Society of Acadiana; as well as the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum and the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
Lafayette is home to the Louisiana–Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, the athletic teams of The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It is home to the Louisiana Hurricanes, a semi-pro football team that plays at STM Stadium. Between the years of 1995 and 2005, Lafayette was home to the Louisiana IceGators ECHL hockey team. In 2009, the IceGators returned as a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League until 2016. Also from 2009 to 2012, Lafayette was home to the Lafayette Wildcatters of the Southern Indoor Football League. It is also home to the Lafayette Bayou Bulls, a semi-pro football program that started in 2003. Lafayette is also home to the Acadian Cane Cutters, a summer league baseball team. The team plays its games at Fabacher field and is a member of the Texas Collegiate League. The Lafayette SwampCats (1997–1999) and Lafayette Swamp Cats (2000–2004) soccer teams played in the city. The Cajun Soccer Club of the Gulf Coast Premier League was founded in 2013. The Acadiana Rollergirls of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association is a Roller Derby League in Lafayette.
The Lafayette area is home to multiple sports venues: Blackham Coliseum, Cajundome, Cajun Field, Earl K. Long Gymnasium, Evangeline Downs and Planet Ice Skating and Hockey Arena.
Lafayette is served by Cox Communications, and by Lafayette Utilities System's LUSFiber.
Lafayette is home to:
Lafayette is also served by:
See List of Lafayette radio stations for full list. Popular radio stations in Lafayette:
See List of Lafayette record labels for full list.
Lafayette has six sister cities:
Six intersections in the downtown area are each named after one of its sister cities.
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