Lake Charles (French: Lac Charles) is the fifth-largest incorporated city in the U.S. state of Louisiana, located on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and the Calcasieu River. Founded in 1861 in Calcasieu Parish, it is a major cultural, industrial, and educational center in the southwest region of the state, and one of the most important in Acadiana.
As of the 2010 census, the population was 71,993. Lake Charles is the principal city of the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area, having a population of 194,138. It is the larger principal city of the Lake Charles-Jennings Combined Statistical Area, with a population of 225,235. A 2010 population estimate of the five parish area was over 292,619.
It is considered a major center of petrochemical refining, tourism, gaming, and education, being home to McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community College. Because of the lakes and waterways throughout the city, metropolitan Lake Charles is often referred to as the Lake Area.
In 1781 Martin LeBleu and his wife, Dela Marion, of Bordeaux, France were the first recorded Europeans to settle in the area now known as the LeBleu Settlement. Charles Sallier, one of the first settlers, married LeBleu's daughter, Catherine LeBleu; the Salliers built their home on the beach in what is current-day Lake Charles. On March 7, 1861, Lake Charles was officially incorporated as the town of Charleston, Louisiana. Six years after the city was incorporated, dissatisfaction over the name Charleston arose; on March 16, 1867, Charleston, Louisiana, was renamed and incorporated as the town of Lake Charles. In 1910, a great fire, known as the Great Fire of 1910 devastated much of the city. However, Lake Charles soon rebuilt itself and continued to grow and expand. After World War II, Lake Charles experienced industrial growth with the onset of the petrochemical refining industries. The city grew to a high of some 80,000 people in the early 1980s, but with local economic recession, the population declined. With the advent of the gaming and aviation maintenance industries, the city rebounded with a population of 71,993 as of 2010.