Louisiana’s towering Capitol building is America’s tallest and one of the most impressive. Forever entwined with the political career of Huey Pierce Long, the building shows off the Art Deco grandeur of the 1930’s despite being built in the Great Depression.
The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge was built in the early 1930s at the height of the Great Depression to a tune of $5 million ($68 million today) in 29 months. The construction of the building and the Old Governor’s Mansion was the result of Huey P. Long efforts during his run for Governor as part of his grand vision for Louisiana. The State Capitol Building became his most visible legacy and the site he was assassinated and buried.
The building is an excellent example of classicism with Art Deco details that were in vogue for monumental buildings in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. The building exterior has plenty of symbolism in the limestone representing the history of Louisiana.
The front doors to the Capitol are reached by a “monumental stairway” consisting of 49 granite steps. Each step has engraved the name of a U.S. state in the order of its statehood. Alaska and Hawaii, which were admitted after the completion of the Capitol, are both on the last step along with the phrase “E pluribus unum”.
Flanking both sides of the stairs are free-standing, limestone sculptures by Lorado Taft entitled Pioneers and Patriots, memorializing both the early settlers and defenders of Louisiana.
Louisiana State Capitol Memorial Hall
Self-guided tours are free, so feel free to explore the public areas of the building. Entering the four-story high lobby, you will be transported back into the world of 1930’s Art Deco. The rectangular Memorial Hall is commonly called the Rotunda even though it is not round. Mounted on the balcony over the elevator banks are the flags of the entities that have held dominion over Louisiana (See Sights in Baton Rouge to see the list). There is also a large central bronze plaque in the center of the hall depicting a relief map showing parish boundaries and seats, industries and exports, and the flora and fauna of Louisiana.
The Hall also features two striking Art Deco murals on either end depicting Louisiana as a land of plenty.
The mural on the east wall is named the “Goddess of Knowledge and Time.” The central figure holds a zodiac in one hand and an hourglass in the other. Harvest scenes make up the background.
The mural on the west wall is named the “Abundance of the Earth.” The central figure here represents agriculture and the figures surrounding her represent art, literature and music.
Louisiana State Capitol First Floor
The Art Deco murals lead to the Senate Chamber (Left) and the House Chamber (Right). These rooms are stunning in architectural detail: hand carved chairs, intricate marble walls and and desks of inlaid wood.
You can also walk through the back marble hallway where the Governor’s office was. This is also where Huey Long was assassinated on September 10, 1935. You can still see the chips in the marble walls where the bullets hit and ricocheted.
Louisiana State Capitol Observation Deck
Ride the elevator to the Observation Deck for great views of the city and gardens. The Louisiana State Capitol was built on the ground that was once Louisiana State University and formerly a military post known as the Pentagon Barracks.
Huey Long is fittingly buried in the center of the public Capitol Gardens on the State Capitol’s grounds.
Long stands in the center of an English Garden holding a model of his monument and looking up at his skyscraper – the beginning and the end of his grand political vision for Louisiana.
The Louisiana State Capitol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Official Website: Louisiana Capitol Building
- Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm, daily, except on major holidays.
- Cost: There is no fee for admission.
- Parking: Free parking is available at the “new” Capitol Building OR there are a also a few limited spots at the Old Governor’s Mansion.
- More Sights in Baton Rouge: Read Here