Baton Rouge – Exploring Louisiana’s Capital

Staying in the Lafayette area was a great central location to see a variety of places.  Baton Rouge was only about an hour away and I didn’t want to miss seeing the capital city and the capitol building.

Our first stop in Baton Rouge was the old state capitol.  The building is 160 years old and built in the gothic style to look like a castle.  It housed the Louisiana State Legislature until the current capitol was built in 1932.  The building is now the Museum of Political History.  Although the museum has some interesting exhibits, I thought the best part was how beautiful the interior is.  I loved the spiral staircase and colorful stained glass dome.

The second floor had several meeting rooms that were decorated very nicely for Christmas.  The gothic architecture was wonderful here.

The museum has an interesting exhibit on Huey Long, the controversial Louisiana governor from 1928 – 1932 and later a senator.  He worked to modernize the state by building roads, bridges and providing better education to children.  His platform was “Share the Wealth” and he saw himself as the champion of the common man.   Interestingly, he was seen as a colorful figure and to some even a dictator because of his extreme methods.

We next visited the current state capitol building which was completed in 14 months at a cost of $5,000,000.  This building was the dream of Governor Long who pushed to have it built during an unusual time – the Great Depression.  Unfortunately he was murdered in this building three years later in 1935.  He is buried on the capitol grounds and his statue faces the capitol.  Below is a picture of me in front of the impressive tombstone and statue.

This state capitol is the tallest at 450 feet and to me it has a more modern  appearance than most of the other capitols I have visited.  The capitol of Nebraska which we visited several months ago has a similar modern style with tall tower.  Visitors can go to the 27th floor for views of the city and the Mississippi River.  There are 48 steps outside leading up to the first floor representing the 48 states that existed in the 1930’s when the Capitol was built.  Hawaii and Alaska were added later and share the top step.  It was neat to see this impressive building, but it didn’t grab me the way some of the others I have visited.

Memorial Hall on the main floor is a stunning room and was beautifully decorated for Christmas with a number of Christmas trees.  Eleven flags that have flown over all or parts of Louisiana hang from the balcony.  I learned that this building has served as a movie set on many occasions.

In a hallway outside the Governor’s office Huey Long was shot while serving as senator.  A bulls-eye marks the spot on the floor and a display case shows memorabilia from the incident including news articles and photos.  Investigations in 1935 and 1992 determined that he was shot by Dr. Carl Weiss who was believed to be against Mr. Long. The pistol that was used to shoot him is on display in the old State Capitol.  There has been much debate over the years as to how Huey was murdered and some believe that Dr. Weiss was not the murderer, but that one of Huey’s bodyguards accidentally shot him while Huey and Dr. Weiss were arguing.

A bullet hole is still visible in a marble column (below) and there are patches on the wall where bullets hit.

After seeing the capitol building, we went to the nearby Capitol Park Museum which is the Louisiana State Museum.  In the picture below, the capitol is reflected in the museum’s pool.

This museum is large and even after two hours I still didn’t have time to see much of the upper floor.  The museum showcases the major highlights of Louisiana:  Early explorers, battles, the Mississippi River, important industries like oil, agricultural products, musicians, authors, Mardi Gras costumes, sports and civil rights to name some of the exhibits.

Above is a picture of an original Civil War era submarine that was discovered in 1878 near New Orleans.  The origins and identity of the sub remain a mystery.  Only a few Civil War submarines have ever been recovered so this one is special.  This was one of our favorite exhibits.  The sub seemed so small and confining I can’t imagine the claustrophobia!  Some of the museum’s exhibits were full size like the two row sugarcane harvester, below.

Another full size exhibit is this 50-foot wooden shrimp trawler, significant since shrimping is a vital part of the state’s seafood industry and important to Louisiana’s Cajun culture.

The museum had some somber exhibits on slavery, an unfortunate reality of life at that time due to many cotton and sugar plantations.   Below is a picture of two actual jail doors used on slave pens at a plantation.

We finished up our day along the Mississippi River which runs by the city.  There is a walk way along the river to admire the views.  It was a great place to watch the river barges, bridge and sunset.   Below, Mark sits and takes in the view.

Thanks for checking in with us!

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