Update: Freetown up for historic district label One of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods is now on a fast track to be designated an historic district

by Walter Pierce

One of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods is now on a fast track to be designated an historic district.

Photo by Robin May

With work wrapped on documenting more than 800 homes and other structures in the Freetown-Port Rico neighborhood adjacent to Downtown and the UL Lafayette campus, one of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods looks like it’s set to be designated an historic district by the National Register of Historic Places. The survey of the neighborhood was conducted over several months last year by UL’s Sustainable Development Lab. The historic district label allows preserving or improving houses and other structures in the area eligible for tax credits of up to 45 percent of construction costs on properties 50 years old or older.

Corey Saft, an architecture professor at the university who worked with anthropology professor Ray Brassieur along with a group of architecture and anthropology students to document the historic structures in Freetown-Port Rico, tells The IND the group turned over its work to the National Register Review Committee who submitted the nomination to the Louisiana Historic Preservation Office in mid-August. That nomination has now been forwarded to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., which will make the final decision on the neighborhood’s status. That process, Saft says, generally takes two months to complete.

“It was a great interdisciplinary process that included architecture, anthropology, history, historic preservation and local and state government,” Saft says of the project. “This is the kind of work UL’s Sustainable Development Lab hopes to keep doing so we can help bring progressive urban development that doesn’t lose our unique sense of place.”

But now that Freetown-Port Rico is documented and nominated, Saft says the lab would like to turn its attention to other historic neighborhoods in Lafayette’s core.

“There are many more important neighborhoods, especially the first ring suburbs around Downtown and important cultural centers like Four Corners, that need to be documented and qualified for tax credits,” he says, adding that the lab hopes to present findings from its research through a public lecture later this year: “We found a very interesting variant of the Southern bungalow that seems uniquely typical of this area.”

For more on the historic Freetown-Port Rico neighborhood and the Sustainable Development Lab’s work there, check out our November 2014 story, “Freetown Forensic.”