301 West Main Street
The dual enrollment students of Catholic High School and their teachers would like to express their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Rev. Canon Larry G. Wilkes. He was instrumental in helping us complete this project. Part of our interview with him is included here.
May he rest in peace.
Every Building Has a Story
Main Street is packed with historical buildings that make New Iberia what it is today. These buildings instill a sense of pride in all of New Iberia’s citizens and for many, bring back great memories from the past. Every building has its own personality and characteristics and can tell its own story.
One of the many great stories of Main Street is that of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, the oldest church in all of New Iberia as well as the oldest non-residential building. It was documented that Episcopalians first began gathering for services in 1844 when the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, the Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, came for a visit. Reverend Polk led services and baptized several adults and children. It was recorded not long after that several other Episcopal priests began to lead services for the Episcopalian community more frequently. However, a church structure was not yet built so services were held in numerous places around the city.
As the Episcopalian community grew in New Iberia, it was obvious that the city needed an Episcopal church. In 1854, land was donated by a local plantation owner named Harvey Hopkins. Three years later, in 1857, the cornerstone for the church was laid out. In 1858, the entire structure of the church was constructed and Reverend W. K. Douglass arrived to begin conducting regular services in the newly built church. This was an extremely exciting time for not only the Episcopalian community but also for New Iberia as a whole.
This mood quickly ended during the Civil War when the church was occupied by Union troops and faced much destruction and mutilation. Many of the original pews were burned, and graffiti was drawn all over the walls. The building was used as barracks for soldiers, a hospital, and even a horse stable. Historical legend says that bite marks from the horses are still noticeable on the surfaces of many pews today. When the Civil War ended, many restorations and renovations were done to the interior of the church, but the exterior stayed was primarily intact. The pews, walls, and many of the stained glass windows were severely damaged, and the majority of them had to be completely replaced. Many rumor that the stained glass window behind the altar was donated by a company in New York to help with the restoration.
In 1951, a church hall was built to the right of the church, and it is also used by Epiphany Day School. The students from Epiphany Day School use the church regularly for chapel services.
If Walls and Windows Could Talk
The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany has an architecture that is closely related to the Gothic Revival style. The church is a perfectly symmetrical brick building when viewed from the front. The buttresses on both sides of the church reinforce the building structure, as well as remaining aesthetically pleasing to any passerby. The lancet arc marks the front of the building and covers the door while containing two buttresses protruding from it. They are in front of the door is known as the Galilee porch as a biblical reference to Jesus leading his disciples into Galilee after Jesus’ resurrection.
There are a total of five windows on the front of the church that vary in shape and size. The bottom windows are all long, vertical, and slender. The middle windows are similar to the previously mentioned windows, but they are significantly shorter in length. The highest window is a cinquefoil that is located in the uppermost middle part of the building. There are also four windows located on each side of the building identical to the windows next to the front door of the church itself. These four windows on each side are placed directly in between each buttress. There is also a stained glass window behind the altar, installed in 1884, that is Tiffany.
The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany was built to be aesthetically appealing, much like most church buildings, when viewed from any location. Located on the two front buttresses of the church, two pinnacles protrude almost as high as the tip of the building itself. The highest point of the building is actually the bell tower which is a noticeably different color from the red-orange brick church. Church bells are typically rung to signify the time of a service or secular function. This area is off limits to the public.
A Picture is Worth 1000 Words
Voices from the Past and Present
This is an interview with Reverend Larry Wilkes from the Episcopal Church. The link below will bring you to youtube.com where you can listen to the entire interview.
Chiffriller, Joe. “The Gothic Field Guide.” New York Carver. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2012.
Cotton, Alice. “Ornamental Terms Glossary.” Artemis Illustration. 2001. Web. 21 Apr. 2012.
“History of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany.” The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. Webmedley, 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2012.
Miller, Haley. Photographs. Private Collection. Haley Miller.
Wilkes, Larry. Personal Interview. 14 Apr. 2012.
“New Parish House to Be Officially Opened Here.” The Weekly Iberian. New Iberia 22 Oct. 1951. Print.
“$75,000 Remodeling Due Episcopal Church.” The Daily Iberian. New Iberia 1 May 1959. Print.