106 East Main Street
Every Building Has a Story
New Iberia’s Main Street can be described as history revived, and each building lives on throughout history to make a name for itself for future generations to know. Some buildings have been lost, but some buildings have stayed and have been able to tell their stories just like a series of books.
On 106 East Main Street lies a small simple, modernized building situated in a little nook on the hypothetical bookshelf labeled “Main Street.” This building is called Books Along the Teche, a bookstore home to a variety of literary pieces. The 25’ wide and 140’ long building was bounded north by property previously owned by Nina DeValcourt Barnard (later owned by Elizabeth DeValcourt Shaw and Dorothy Shaw Rankin), south by property previously owned by Charles Gouguenheim (now owned by Sliman Realty Corp.), east by East Main Street, and west by property previously owned by Jacob Davis (now owned by Sliman Realty Corporation). The building and the land it is on have had many different owners, the current being Leroy J. Dautreuil as of April 28, 1983 (see bottom for previous owners).
Books Along the Teche was originally located in the old Ackal Building at 110 East Main Street for twelve years and then moved to its current location 106 East Main Street around the year 2000. Before the building was turned into a bookstore, it started off as a retail clothing store and later became a sandwich shop called Blimpie’s. The building was then remodeled into a deli, and afterwards, it was changed into a coffee shop. The owner of the coffee shop did the most internal changes to the building (including adding a kitchen counter and bathrooms), but she only stayed for a few years. Linzee’s Kitchenary moved in after the coffee shop and sold kitchen items and sandwiches. After Linzee, the building was occupied by Lorraine and Howard Kingston. They currently run the bookstore and rent the building from Leroy J. Dautreuil.
Even with its modern characteristics, Books Along the Teche holds a special place on the bookshelf of Main Street history. It not only houses books but houses the past and tells the newer generations what has happened in New Iberia’s history, whether it is structurally, culturally, or even economically. It is simply a small piece of a big slice of New Iberian life.
Previous Owners (from beginning to present):
- Elizabeth DeValcourt to Nina DeValcourt Shaw via inheritance on December 6, 1902
- Nina DeValcourt Shaw to Mattie Bernard Shaw via inheritance on November 18, 1959
- Mattie Bernard Shaw to Elizabeth DeValcourt Shaw, Dorothy Shaw Rankin, and Sarah Virginia Shaw Andrews via inheritance on December 22, 1965
- Elizabeth DeValcourt Shaw, Dorothy Shaw Rankin, and Sarah Virginia Shaw Andrews to Louis W. Belaire and Allen P. McDonald via cash sale on February 10, 1978
- Allen P. McDonald to Louis W. Belaire (McDonald’s share of the property) via cash sale on June 15, 1978
- Louis W. Belaire to Leroy J. Dautreuil via cash sale on April 28, 1983 (present owner)
If Walls and Windows Could Talk
When taking a stroll down busy Main Street, many tourists as well as native citizens might feel as if they have taken a step back into the past as they pass the many well-preserved and restored buildings located on downtown Main Street. However, as individuals find themselves passing in front of the little bookstore called Books Along the Teche, they will come to realize that the building seems a little out of place. With its old faded green shingle roof, multi-colored brick façade, and plane rectangular shaped windows and door, Books Along the Teche is unlike any other building downtown. It is a newer building that clearly does not follow the traditional architectural style and pattern. Constructed in a nondescript style, 106 East Main Street was remodeled using more modern materials that differed from the surrounding buildings.
There are numerous conflicting remembrances of when the building was changed and how it may have originally looked. According to Lorraine and Howard Kingston, the present occupants of 106 East Main Street, when Leroy J. Dautreuil gained possession of the building in 1983, the buildings along Main Street were not in the best condition; they were old and deteriorating. The Kingstons believed that this probably led Dautreuil to believe that downtown would soon be moving to a more “modern” look when the buildings would eventually be worked on. So, Leroy Dautreuil took the initiative and decided to remodel his building changing its whole façade.
Through an e-mail interview, another remembrance was acquired from Milton Belanger, a New Iberia native who lived and grew up on Main Street. According to Belanger, “After the fire [in 1899], the walls to your building [Books Along the Teche] and the two to the right of it (Accentrics and Bowab’s) were still standing and were considered strong enough to not have to be torn down. So the interiors and the roofs were reconstructed. The three buildings had been built as a group and all looked similar to Bowab’s. This lasted into the 1920s. Because so many other buildings were remodeled in the 1930s, I am assuming that this is when your building lost its Bowab’s look. I can’t remember what that ‘look’ looked like. I do know that it went from that look to its present look in the mid-1970s for Blimpie’s. After that, not much has been done. It looked like that for Blimpies and continues to look like that so the coffee shop and bookstore did not do anything to the exterior except for a sign.”
Despite the many different beliefs about the changes made to 106 East Main Street, the changes did in fact leave the building of Books Along the Teche to be the “odd one out.” This is why there is not much beauty or architectural detail to be seen on the front of the building. However, those individuals who are fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the “untouched” back of the building would be quite surprised by the authentic beauty and great architectural detail that is present (see A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words).
A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words
Although the front of the building has changed considerably, the rear of the building has preserved a touch of the past.
Voices From the Past and Present
On April 9, 2012, JoLena Broussard and Albony Martin interviewed Mr. Howard Kingston and Mrs. Lorraine Kingston on their fond memories of living in New Iberia and watching the town change and grow. They also discussed the history of their self-owned bookstore Books Along the Teche and the historical background of the building in which the business is located.
Belanger, Milton. Message to the author. 3 May 2012. E-mail.
“Books Along the Teche.” Book Store New Iberia, LA, 2010. Web. 22 Mar. 2012.
Broussard, JoLena, and Albony Martin. Books Along the Teche Photographs 2012. Photographs. Private Collection. JoLena Broussard.
Conrad, Glenn R. New Iberia. Louisiana: The University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1986. Print.
Iberia Parish. Conveyance. Book 48, Folio 62, Entry 12073 6 Dec. 1902. Print.
Iberia Parish. Conveyance. Book 362, Folio 144, Entry 114090 18 Nov. 1959. Print.
Iberia Parish. Conveyance. Book 479, Folio 115, Entry 131609 22 Dec. 1965. Print.
Iberia Parish. Conveyance. Book 682, Folio 3, Entry 78-1117 14 Feb. 1978. Print.
Iberia Parish. Conveyance. Book 688, Folio 929, Entry 78-4433 15 June 1978. Print.
Iberia Parish. Conveyance. Book 815, Folio 112, Entry 83-37637 28 Apr. 1983. Print.
Kingston, Howard and Lorraine. Personal interview. 9 Apr. 2012.
Hebert, Jimmy. Looking Back: Historic Images of Iberia Parish. Louisiana: The Daily Iberian, 2003. Print.