Baton Rouge Old State Capitol

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Baton Rouge Old State Capitol

A trip to Baton Rouge should begin at the Old State Capitol for a lesson on Louisiana history and politics.  Nicknamed “Castle of the River”, this eye-catching structure stands high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and is now the Museum of Political History. Baton Rouge Old State Capitol Baton Rouge was established as the capitol of Louisiana in 1847 after state leaders decided to have a different political center from the economic stronghold of New Orleans.
  • 1852: The capital building is commenced & finished and serves as the seat of Louisiana government.
  • 1861: Louisiana legislators vote here to succeed from the Union, joining the Confederate side in the Civil War.
Baton Rouge Old State Capitol US Flag
Confederate States of American “First National” Flag – 1861. This handmade flag flew over the Baton Rouge Old Capitol Building until Federal forces occupied it in 1862.
  • 1862: Union troops capture the building and use it as a Union prison and garrison until December 28, 1862 when the interior of the building was destroyed due to an accidental fire started by Union soldiers.
  • 1882: The ruined interior was completely reconstructed by architect and engineer William A. Freret who installed the signature grand staircase. Older legislators remembered the darkness from the 1850 period. In an effort to emit more light, Freret added the magnificent stained glass “lantern” dome. A single central pier supports the dome so that it resembles a grand umbrella of painted glass.  Governor McEnery and other state officials arrived in Baton Rouge to officially take possession of the newly restored statehouse and the new life of the capitol began.
Baton Rouge Old State Capitol Stained Glass Dome Baton Rouge Old State Capitol Stained Glass Dome
  • 1932: Huey Long becomes Governor and implements an unprecedented program of modernization and reform in Louisiana – building roads and bridges, providing free public education, expanding voting rights to all citizens, and creating economic opportunity for a majority trapped in poverty.  His vision also includes the re-building of the Old Governor’s Mansion and creating a new Capital Building – the tallest in the USA.  Huey Long gave many of his most infamous speeches here at the Old State Capitol.
  • Today: The building has further been restored and now serves as a political museum with exhibits on The Governors’ Portrait Gallery, Baton Rouge and the Civil War, and the Legacy of Huey Long – the legendary governor who still overshadows this city.
The most interesting display at Baton Rouge’s Old Capitol Building is the Legacy of Huey Long.   The exhibit does a good job of explaining the two sides of Huey Long – hated or revered – as there did not seem to be a middle ground with this politician. Baton Rouge Old State Capitol Huey Long Exhibit Huey Long TicketHuey Long ran on a platform called “Share the Wealth” which capped personal fortunes & annual income, limited inheritances, provided free college education, 30 hr work weeks, and 4 week vacations. To build grassroots support for his program, Long announced the formation of the Share Our Wealth Society with the slogan “Every Man a King”, and he encouraged the public to write to him to learn more. Long’s message struck a chord with a public desperate for relief. By April 1935, his Senate office received an average of 60,000 letters a week. They do not merely vote for him, they worship the ground he walks on. He is part of their religion. – St. Louis Post-Dispatch correspondent on Huey’s popularity, 1935 This of course angered the Wealthy who had worked for their possessions. In addition, Huey Long was accused of many corrupt methods for implementing his programs and ideals. I used to get things done by saying please. Now I dynamite ’em out of my path. – Huey Long
Beyond the history, make sure to view the intriguing spiral staircase leading to an exceptional cathedral dome of stained glass inside. Baton Rouge Old State Capitol Staircase and the exterior buildings interesting mix of Gothic and Victorian architecture. Baton Rouge Old State Capital
Official Website: Old Capitol Building 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. Ask the staff for a sign to put on your dashboard before taking the tour. More Sights in Baton Rouge: Read Here

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