The State of Louisiana does not have "counties" as regional governments below the state level, but instead has "parishes". The only state besides Louisiana not to have counties is Alaska, which has "boroughs".
In 1804, under the new United States Territorial government, Rapides became one of the 12 counties into which the Territory of New Orleans (later the State of Louisiana) was divided. In 1807, the legislature divided the Territory of Orleans in 19 parishes, one of which was Rapides.
Rapides Parish was thus established in 1807 in Central Louisiana, with Alexandria as its parish seat.The parish takes it name after the "rapids" which were in the Red River just north of Alexandria.
The parish has a total area of 1,362 square miles of which 1,318 square miles is land and 44 square miles (3.2%) is water. It is the second-largest parish in Louisiana by land area.
As of the 2020 census the parish had a population of 130,023 residents. Adjacent parishes are Grant, LaSalle, Avoylles, Evangeline, Allen, Vernon and Nachitoches.
Principal lakes are Buhlow, Cotile, Kincaid, Rodemacher, Valentine and Indian Creek. Rivers in the parish include the Red River, Little River and the Calcasieu River.
The Rapides Parish Police Jury is the governing authority for the Parish which operates under the police jury system as provided by the general laws of the state. The police jury and any office, agency, board, commission, district, committee, subcommittee, advisory board or task force thereof is a public body.
The Police Jury is both a legislative and administrative body. Its legislative functions include enacting ordinance and resolutions, establishing programs and setting policy. As an administrative body, it prepares the budget, hires personnel, spends money, negotiates contracts and in general, directs the activities under its supervision.
The parish provides services such as voter registration, engineering & road maintenance, fire protection districts, and the Sheriff's Department.
Map of Louisiana showing the location of Rapides Parish
Nine "jurors" represent different areas of the parish.
Alexandria and Pineville are the major communities in the parish. Other towns in the parish include Ball, Boyce, Cheneyville, Glenmora, Lecompte and Woodworth. Two villages are Forest Hill and McNary.
Some of the unincorporated communities found in the parish are Buckeye, Echo, Elmer, Flatwoods, Hinestone, Kolin, Lena, Libuse, Otis and Tioga.
Interactive Map of Rapides Parish
The first courthouse was built in 1820. A new courthouse built in 1859 was destroyed by fire on May 13, 1864 by Federal troops evacuating Alexandria in retreat down the Red River. Legal records and much of the town were burned.
The next Rapides Parish Courthouse on Second Street was built in 1903 in the Beaux Arts style with Romanesque elements. It was razed in 1957, and the site was later acquired for use by the Alexandria Daily Town Talk newspaper.
Construction on the present courthouse was started in 1939, and completed in 1940, with various alterations and additions over time, and is located at 701 Murray Street. The 7-story building is designed in the art deco/art moderne style, built with concrete with a limestone exterior. The architects were Edward F Neild, D A Somdal and Edward F Neild Jr. and the contractor was James T. Taylor.
Rapides Parish Courthouse on Murray Street, built circa 1939
Two relief friezes are mounted on the facade of the courthouse (see photo below) on either side of the main entrance. The left frieze features an elderly man with a flowing beard. He is seated, holding an open book on his lap with his proper left hand. His proper right hand holds a fasces, a Roman symbol of authority. The right frieze features a seated woman wearing robes and a blindfold. She holds scales in her proper right hand and a sword in her proper left hand.
The previous Rapides Parish Courthouse on Second Street