114 East Main Street
Every Building Has a Story
Main Street of New Iberia has a certain appeal that entices visitation from many people varying in age. The old Wormser’s building may not be the first to catch an eye today, but it was much the contrary in the 1950s. Wormser’s was once a main attraction, but the building has been retired to a clothing boutique called Susan’s. The first owner of the building was Dr. J. Wiltz Emmer followed by H.S. Sealy, Jr. Jake Weil leased the building from Sealy to open his clothing store that was commonly referred to as The Hub. Justin Wormser opened Wormser’s Department store in 1932 in the western-most half of the Art Deco structure next door. Wormser’s grand opening was a big event for New Iberia, and its popularity grew rapidly. The store was a great success in the first and second year of being open. With such a large number of customers, Wormser was forced to double the size of his current store and call his son Harold to come home from Tulane to assist in running the business. Harold inherited the property in 1963 after the death of his father. In 1966, Harold Wormser bought out Weil’s store in order to expand. Wormser’s tripled in size, therefore making it one of the most popular clothing stores in New Iberia. Both of the old Wormser’s buildings are still owned by the Wormser family but are leased to new upcoming businesses.
If Walls Could Talk
After the Great Depression, many Americans searched for any bit of hope for a brighter future. Despite the hard times that the country was recovering from, many movements towards a better future took place. During the 1930s the lower façade of the Susan’s building was remodeled as a statement of the fashion forward movement. Mr. John Wormser said in his interview that it was remodeled in an Art Deco design. The Art Deco style was just beginning to become popular in art and architecture, thus the remodeled building was very modern. The top of the building was done in an ornate pediment with a thick molding to separate itself from the bottom half of the building. This pediment is original to the circa 1900 building – two similar but smaller pediments were located on the Wormser’s building next door. Beneath the elaborate roof was a large sign advertising the name of the store. The original sign once lit up the street in neon, and though it no longer works, the original Wormser’s sign still hangs on the face of the building. A thick molding outlines the overhang of the covered glass doors leading into the store. The building’s stucco protrudes around the show windows that Susan’s currently displays their latest fashions in: one on either side of the entrance and one facing Church Alley. When it was the home of the Hub clothing store, the building featured many more show windows. The people of New Iberia used to enjoy strolling down Main Street at nighttime to window shop or get some fresh air. Wormser’s used their many show windows to lure customers in and extended their hours for the convenience of shoppers. The building that stood in that lot was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1899. The entire block from Julia to Iberia Street and Main to St. Peter’s Street was burnt down by the fire. On the side wall of Susan’s is a plaque describing the Great Fire.
A Picture Is Worth a 1000 Words
Voices from the Past
On April 13, 2012, Morgan Courville conducted a phone interview with Mr. John Wormser. John is the son of Harold Wormser, the founder of the Wormser’s Department store. John currently shares ownership of the building with his brother David Wormser. Morgan asked Mr. John Wormser to tell her about the history of the store, the remodeling of the building, and the unique features of the building. A second interview was done with Mr. Bo Belanger. Both men gave an account of what they remember about the building as they were growing up. Most of the information above is from the description the men gave from memory.
Belanger, Milton. Personal interview. 23 Apr 2012.
Courville, Morgan, and Caroline Hulin. Wormser’s. 2012. Photographs. Private Collection. Morgan Courville.
Wormser, John. Telephone interview. 13 Apr 2012.