This is the second article on one of the 26 items on my Baton Rouge bucket list. Advocate’s functional staff will complete her 26 items throughout 2023, first-person experiences and/or previews of the experiences he will write and report fortnightly throughout the year. We encourage our readers to play along and let us know about your Baton Rouge Bucket List related events.
Over the years, Mark Twain has written testimonies and insults. His targets were numerous, including the Old State Capitol Building in Louisiana.
Twain, as he put it, was never a fan of “false castles” or “that monster of the Mississippi.”
“It would have been so easy to dynamite what started a charity fire,” he wrote.
Oh. These days, it’s hard to understand what provoked Twain’s wrath: The imposing Gothic Old State House has graced downtown Rouge in Baton-his Rouge since construction began in 1847. It’s one of Baton Rouge’s most famous buildings and, contrary to what Twain said, one of its most charming, it also inspired the Mimosa line. jewelry.
Being part of the landscape, many may forget how much the Old State Capitol is worth a visit. It is now a National Historic Landmark and hosts a variety of fascinating exhibits.
Through the large front door, you enter a beautiful building filled with ornate wood furnishings, sparkling black and white checkerboard floors, and a spiral staircase. At the top is a stunning stained glass dome that has given the building an air of elegance since the 1880s.
Admission is free and visitors can hang out to their heart’s content. Still, the best way to see all of the building’s wonders (there are quite a few) is on a guided tour led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers.
Retired civil servant David Fitzgerald is one of them. His knowledge is breathtaking. After working in this building for 11 years he knows all the quirks, best spots and highlights. He can take both long and short tours, pointing out even small differences in architecture and odd historical spelling mistakes.
Thanks in part to the Internet for promoting the wonders of the Capitol and its role in television shows such as Disney’s National Treasure: Edge of History, Mr. Fitzgerald said he was well suited to be a tour guide these days. said it was time.
“When I started, there were days when two or three people would come and I would sit and read all day,” he said. “But I’m really busy right now. I see people coming from all over the world.”
The nadir of the building may have been burned to the ground when it was occupied by Union forces during the Civil War, but it was carved out and carved out over the decades after the center of power moved down the road in the 1930s. has changed. For years it was used for everything from offices to a (very unsanctioned) party space for college students. It was in disrepair.
A good starting point for your tour is the impressive short film “The Ghost of the Castle.” In the film, the building’s history is explained by a ghostly version of Sarah Morgan (“Sarah Morgan: A Southern Woman’s Civil War Diary”). ”).
The Old State Capitol is full of historical trinkets, including a relatively recent addition with a clock engraved with a picture of the building itself once worn by 19th-century Baton Rouge mayor Leon Yastrzemski. increase.
Former Governor Huey Long is still looming large, and the exhibit on his life is literally split in two.
Although he is arguably most closely associated with the new state capitol building, the old state capitol played a major role in Long’s life and career. and one of the key documents from that episode, a facsimile of the Round Robin Book signed by 15 senators who supported Long, is on display in the building today.
Also on display is the gun Carl Weiss used to kill Long in 1935. Both are in a transparent box. It feels strangely powerful to have such a history-changing part in your hands.
There’s plenty to see outside, too, including the grave of former Louisiana Governor Henry Watkins Allen. The front lot slopes steeply to South River Road. It’s been a popular place for kids to roll for decades, and Fitzgerald confirms it still is: a group of visiting school kids, in a day he’ll see 200 may exceed.
If you’re looking to refresh after your tour, head across the road to the rooftop Tsunami Restaurant, which offers both stunning views of the Mississippi and aerial views of the Capitol. Interestingly, its beautiful dome is obscured from high above and has confounded many tourists over the years.
Looking at the now-defunct train station on South River Road (now home to the Louisiana Art & Science Museum), I imagine Long exiting the station in style and making a quick trip across the street in a hurry is not difficult. And the steps to the Houses of Parliament. Spending an afternoon at the Old State Capitol, a place steeped in history, will do just that.