Original Des Allemands Elementary building will live on through replica, exhibit

In 1923, plans went into motion to construct an elementary school that would serve the communities of Des Allemands, Paradis and Bayou Gauche – the St. Charles Parish School Board purchased a lot from Earnest Dufrene, less than 4,000 feet from Bayou Des Allemands, and that idea became a reality.

It became the second public school house in Des Allemands. Unlike most buildings, however, the original Des Allemands Elementary School building wasn’t one to stay put. The building has been relocated over the years. In 1931, the building was relocated by log tram about 3,800 feet to Comardelle Village. Ten years later, it was relocated by barge to Bayou Gauche.

And later, in 1959, the school was purchased by American Legion Post 316 and moved to the American Legion ballpark. The legionnaires took on the task of relocating the school building that was in Bayou Gauche. It was rolled onto a barge and brought to the bayou Des Allemands bank edge in front of the Catholic Cemetery. At that point it was rolled onto a low boy trailer truck and driven to the American Legion Ball Park. Ultimately, the building would be expanded and served the Legion until 1999, when it was sold to St. Charles Parish and used for the recreation department before finally shuttering it.

No matter where it stood over the years, it impacted countless lives, educating numerous community children, playing host to weddings and other celebrations and stood as a community landmark. Early last decade, plans were made to convert the old elementary school building into a museum that would serve as a window into the building’s well-traveled and well-visited past.

Hurricane Ida changed that plan. The damage incurred proved too much for a salvage project, but the group of community historians who planned to convert the building into a museum have put together an exhibit of the historic building, including a replica constructed by Wilbert Naquin.

“We had been working on (the museum project) for quite a few years, and after the storm happened, we didn’t want to see it forgotten,” said Roy Lunk of Des Allemands, a member of the Des Allemands, Bayou Gauche, Paradis Museum Society, a non-profit organization established in 2013 to focus on the planned renovation. “To preserve some of that memory, we made a replica and compiled a little bit of history to display for people. And Wilbert Naquin did a great job on the replica.”

The exhibit is currently on display at the St Charles Parish School Board building until July 1. At that time, it will be relocated to the St Charles Parish Courthouse and remain in place for the month of July. The continued display schedule is: Paradis Library for August, Paradis Fire Department in September, the Des Allemands Fire Department in October and the Bayou Gauche Fire Department in November.

The final destination for the school portion of the exhibit will be at Allemands Elementary School, while the Legion exhibit will be displayed at the St. Charles Parish Library.

“We don’t want to lose it … we want to hold onto it so everyone can see it,” Lunk said. “It’ll be right there in the community for everyone to see.

“Judging by the response we’ve received already, people seem to be enjoying it. A lot of comments from people who remember being at the school or who say their parents went to school there … the bottom line for us is to be able to preserve the history of a building that’s had so much involved in the history of not one, but three communities, between the school and the American Legion.”

Lunk added that if the community response from here is strong, there’s consideration of creating a potential presentation to go with the exhibit.

 

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