The collapse of the Ottoman Empire pushed a migration of people of Lebanese origin to Lafayette in early 20th Century. A lot of the new immigrants from Lebanon became prominent merchants and professionals like members of the Saloom, the Abdalla and the Boustany families, to name a few. The Saloom family became well-respected fixtures in the community. Judge Kaliste Saloom gave his name to a major road on the south side of Lafayette. The family had a clothing store in Freetown, a historic neighborhood not far from Downtown Lafayette. The Abdalla familys Stores were known for a century in Lafayette for the quality of their store’s merchandise.
There was a Jewish Community living in South Louisiana during the 19th Century. It was also a thriving community in Lafayette. Henri Bendel and Maurice Heymann are well known citizen of Lafayette. Maurice Heymann was a young man from New Orleans when he first came to Lafayette. He registered at the Gordon Hotel in the early June 1910 and then he decided to buy a dry goods store owned by Mrs. Schmulen, whose brother was the New York fashion designer Henri Bendel. Mrs Schmulens’ store was across the street, at 500 Jefferson. After a few years, Mr. Heymann sold that property to the Guaranty Bank and Trust and moved across the street, where he built the structure that you see today at 433 Jefferson. In the back of his dry good store, he had a modern grocery store built which is today the Lafayette Children Museum. He helped make Jefferson Street a vibrant commercial center. Mr. Heymann is better known for his clairvoyance in creating the Heymann Oil Center, which gave the oil industry a foothold in Southwestern Louisiana.
This building is now home to the Lafayette Science Museum and Planetarium, which welcomes guests every day except Mondays.