Oak Avenue is one of the oldest roads in the district, having been used initially by the
Mouton family for access from Ile Copal plantation to the St. John Cathedral, and other meeting places in Vermilionville town. Businesses and residences developed early on Oak Avenue – quite a few of them were Lebanese. During the Huey P. Long administration, decisions were made to pave Oak Avenue from the courthouse to Pinhook, and establish it as a leg of the Old Spanish Trail (Hwy 90). This decision further elevated the status of Oak Avenue into an attractive residential and business thoroughfare. Judge Kaliste Saloom, Jr., whose family was Lebanese, was born in 1918 at his parents’ house near the northeast corner of Oak and Lamar. At that time, the Kaliste Saloom, Sr., home was attached to their corner store.
In 1925, a new home was built next to the store. It was designed by the architect George Knapp (it is currently the “Women’s Center of Lafayette,” at 1331 Jefferson St). Next door to this Saloom family house is the Saint Ann's Infirmary (1317 Jefferson Street), built in 1937 by Asma Boustany Saloom, the widow of Kaliste Saloom, Sr. When it was built, this infirmary became one of the only places where African Americans could receive health care in Lafayette. In the Freetown-Port Rico district, Lebanese families like the Salooms typically crossed racial barriers to equitably serve clients and customers. Lebanese immigration, and the civic roles they played, may indeed have encouraged this district to remain unsegregated and relatively harmonious though the years.