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(RE)BORN on the Bayou With donations alone, a community restores a church where generations of Bayou Goula inhabit- ants have marked the milestones of their lives. BY Heather Veneziano PHOTOS COURTESY Travis The 88-foot steeple of St. Paul Church in Bayou Goula is replaced after having toppled in 2008 during Hurricane Gustav. Campesi THE WORK ISN’T EVEN COMPLETE, but the restoration of historic St. Paul Catholic Church in Bayou Goula, Loui- siana is already winning awards. In September of 2008, after the high winds of Hurricane Gustav caused St. Paul’s bell tower and steeple to fall onto the main roof of the building, the building sat, enduring further damage from exposure to the elements. The building faced de- molition — prompting several concerned community members to form the Friends of St. Paul Church, Inc. Its sole mission is to “stabilize and restore this architectural asset, and return it to working condition, capable of hosting religious and cultur- al events, thereby providing a source of income to sustain its existence as a useful resource to the Bayou Goula community.“ The restoration of the church is three-quarters of the way complete, and Preserve Louisiana and the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation have already recognized the project. But not only is the restoration impressive — the love that is driving the project is rare. There are no developers or future profits behind this restoration, which may end up cost- ing half a million dollars — just committed community members. And there is no huge benefactor: the majority of that money was raised through small donations. For a community this tight, and for the 10 board members of the Friends of St. Paul Church, restoring this community treasure has been worth the massive effort. A Community with Deep Roots Bayou Goula, a small hamlet within the town of White Castle located 25 miles downriver from Baton Rouge in Iberville Parish, was once one of the best-known landmarks on the Mississippi River. Early maps of the Mississippi River Valley mark it as one of the first settlements — often listed as Bayagoulas, as on the 1743 map based upon the surveys of Broutin, Vergés, and Saucier. Its prominence of place was a result of the relationship between the native inhabitants and Pierre Le Moyne OCTOBER 2017 www.prcno.org • PRESERVATION IN PRINT 23