The history of how certain areas, certain nooks and crannies of downtown New Iberia came to be is always interesting. There are buildings and streets that derive from the businesses that operated in the city decades or centuries ago, like the former hardware and department stores that now make up a large part of the city’s picturesque historic district along the Bayou Teche.
But some parts of downtown have a much simpler basis. For Church Alley, it amounted to a property owner wanting to preserve the view from his front porch of the city’s Catholic church.
One of the founders of New Iberia, Frédéric Henri Duperier, originally donated Church Alley to the city of New lberia in 1837. At the time, the Duperier family lived across the Bayou Teche in the mansion that was to become Mt. Carmel Academy on Duperier Street.
According to history, Duperier donated the land for the alley as well as the property for St. Peter's Catholic Church to the city. Because of the location of his family’s home on the high bank of the bayou, he could sit on his porch and look across the Teche toward downtown. The alley insured that the view of the church would not be obstructed as the commercial district along Main Street developed.
According to the historical marker on the site, the city accepted the donation of the alley with the agreement that it would always be known as Church Alley. Over the years, the nuns from Mt. Carmel would use the route to walk students to Mass at the church.
Over the last decade, the idea of turning the alley into a pocket park began to get some traction. In 2015, fundraising efforts got a major boost when the city administration was able to secure a $90,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program, which comes under the federal Highway Trust Fund.
Work on the park was completed in 2018, but work around the park is still going on. Buildings along the alley are still being renovated, one with the goal of becoming a coffee shop, others as office space and bed-and-breakfast space.
Part of the grant for the park also went toward markings and striping for a 3.2-mile bicycle trail that works its way through the city’s historic district.
The alley itself is also part of the New lberia National Register Commercial Historic District.