The Central School Arts & Humanities Center was designed and built by noted New Orleans architects “Favrot & Livaudais” in 1912 and is located at the heart of the Charpentier Historic District. The historic elementary school opened its doors for the fall semester of the 1913-1914 school year, under the leadership of Principal H.P. Wall.
Central School was used during World War II to house soldiers from the 37th Division during army maneuvers in the summer of 1941. Three other Ward schools in Lake Charles housed soldiers on their playgrounds. In the evenings, the school was used for civil defense instruction classes and as a registration site for rationing. Both before and after the war, the school’s auditorium served as a venue for dramatic and musical events, as well as a meeting place for civic groups.
In the 1950’s, the student population averaged 750, and an athletic program was added. During this time, the Trojan was adopted as Central School’s mascot. The school’s monthly newspaper, the “Central News” began in 1948. Later, it’s name was changed to “Central Gazette”. The facility operated as a school until 1976, when it began to house School Board Administrative Offices.
In 1986, the building was leased by the Calcasieu Arts and Humanities Council (now the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA). It housed several cultural organizations including the Children’s Museum until it was vacated in 1992, by order of the Fire Marshall. The building was declared a fire hazard and was forced to close.
In 1993, with the support of the entire Lake Charles community, the school was restored and became an “Arts & Humanities” center, after the passage of a quarter-cent sales tax which ran for six months. Working closely with the Arts & Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana, Calcasieu Preservation Society, Artists & Non-Profit organizations, the architects were able to redesign Central School’s classrooms to serve as studios, galleries, and performance spaces.
Source: A.C. Bourdier, Cathy Bordelon, Dr. Joe Cash, Micheal Jones, and Hans Rasmussen, and the McNeese Archives