Louisiana State Capitol History
The Lousiana state capitol is the tallest state capitol building in the country, and it's seen the likes of Huey Long. You can't miss this historic monument when you visit Louisiana's capital city.
If you are visiting Baton Rouge, you cannot miss the State Capitol, literally. By law, it is the tallest building in the city, easily visible from nearly every part of town. It stands 450 feet high, with 34 floors. While it is a place of work for hundreds of state legislators and state employees, it is also a wonderful tourist attraction.
As the Capitol City, Baton Rouge does have a Capitol building, but it surely would not be what it is today without Governor Huey P. Long. Long was Louisiana's Governor during the depression. He was known as a governor who would fight for the poor man. His motto was, "every man a king." In the 30's, Huey Long called a special session to ask legislators to fund a new building. The first vote failed. But, Long quickly convinced enough legislators a new building was needed, and the second vote passed. Legislators approved a five-million-dollar plan. Sadly, it would be the site of Huey Long's assassination three years after its completion.
The Architecture, Outside
Considering the magnitude of the building and the detail in the design, it is amazing the Capitol was built in 14 months. Architects ordered marble from Vermont and Italy and awaited its arrival in rail cars. Other than its height, the structure is probably best known for its staircase, leading to the front doors. In each of the 48 steps is etched the name of the states, in the order they joined the union. Alaska and Hawaii were added to the top step, after their admittance.
The Architecture, Inside
One of the first things you will see when entering the State Capitol is the large bronze map on the floor. It is a map showing the 64 parishes that make Louisiana. Parishes are like counties in other states. The map displays many of the resources and products different regions have and produce. Just to your left, or to the West, is the Senate chamber, to your right, the House. Even if legislators are in session, you will at least want to approach the chamber doors. Even if they are closed, you can marvel at the bronze doors, which weigh a ton each. Engraved on both are depictions of what life was like in colonial Louisiana.
Whatever you do when you are at the Capitol, you must go up to see the view. On the 27th floor is an observation deck. The view of Baton Rouge, the Mississippi River, and Port Allen are amazing. Port Allen is a city on the western side of the river from Baton Rouge. Do not forget to take your camera for this. If for some reason you do, don't worry, this is also the floor where you can find a gift shop.
From the observation deck, you can see the size of the Capitol grounds. The Capitol is built on 27 acres, much of it beautiful gardens. Feel free to sit on the benches and enjoy lunch; everything is open to the public. You can also visit the Arsenal, just to the east of the Capitol, or the Pentagon Barracks, just to the west. Both are historic structures dating back to the 1800's. Also on the grounds, in front of the Capitol, is Huey P. Long's grave site and memorial.
An informal museum is on the first floor of the Capitol, in the corridor where Huey P. Long was assassinated. A plaque marks the place he was shot. There are also glass cases with memorabilia, including photographs, newspaper articles, even a gun. While the official report says Long was assassinated by a Louisiana doctor, there are many conspiracy theories. You will have fun reading about many of them on the walls where the incident occurred. Long was shot September 8, 1935.
Another museum honoring Louisiana's culture is on the first floor. The Creole Folklife Exhibit has been a part of the Capitol since 1984. The exhibit highlights Louisiana's diverse culture. You might have heard of the terms "cajun" or "creole." While they might have new meanings today, they both originally describe the people of Louisiana. Cajuns were originally a group of Acadians from Nova Scotia who settled in South Louisiana. Creoles were originally the French and Spanish population. While the French language is still thriving in the area, the culture is diverse. People of many nationalities populated Louisiana, including the Germans, Italians, Irish, Native Americans, and Slavonians.