The Louisiana State Capitol

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

On Tuesday, 19 April 2011, during our spring-break trip to the Deep South, we took a daytrip from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital. The primary purpose of this excursion, of course, was to see the state capitol—the 28th in my quest to visit all 50. That evening, after our visit to the capitol, Susan and I also attended the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple.

The skyscraper form of the Louisiana capitol is a unique feature shared by only two other state houses, those of Nebraska and North Dakota. (Nebraska’s capitol was, in fact, the inspiration for Louisiana’s.) The building was conceived in 1928—the height of the Roaring Twenties just before the start of the Great Depression—during the successful gubernatorial campaign of Huey Long.

The illustrious Mr. Long was one of America’s most colorful political figures. He wanted a beautiful, modern building that spoke of what Louisiana was and aspired to be—a modern, powerful, prosperous state. It’s probably also fair to say that he wanted a permanent public work that matched his own ego.

Ironically, Mr. Long never occupied the governor’s office in the capitol whose construction he championed. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1931, shortly before the dedication of the capitol on 16 May 1932. In a strange twist of fate, Mr. Long was assassinated in the corridor outside the governor’s office on 10 September 1935.

In the end, however, I think Mr. Long got in this building what he wanted. The Louisiana State Capitol is one of the best examples of 1920s art deco in the world, and among all the state capitols I’ve been to, it certainly ranks among the most beautiful.

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