Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA



New Orleans was made the capitol of Louisiana in the 1700's, but in 1847 Baton Rouge gifted $20,000 of land to Louisiana for a state capitol building, thus moving the long held title away from New Orleans. The building was built to overlook the Mississippi River by sitting atop a bluff. The construction of the house or State Capitol Building was based on gothic revival. James Harrison Dakin was the architect in charge of the design providing towers, stained glass windows, and gables. It looks very much like a 15th century Gothic Cathedral. Iron was even used in the construction to keep up that appearance.

In 1862 the building was used as a prison by the Union soldiers. It was also used to jail African American troops. The building caught fire twice and was eventually emptied and abandoned by the Union. In 1882 the house was renovated by William Freret. He added a spiral staircase and stained glass dome to the structure. These renovations lasted until 1932 as the capitol seat. A new building was created and the Old State Capitol was turned into a place for veteran organizations and Works Progress Administration. In 1990 the building was turned into a museum for Baton Rouge residents and tourists.

Since it is a museum it is open to visitors during Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Sunday hours are noon to 4pm. However, from June till March the museum is not open on Mondays. There is a small fee for admission. The museum is considered one of political history. It is possible to schedule tours or to just walk through.

Inside the building the walls, floors and ceilings are very ornate. They are typical of French styles of the 1800's when the building was first erected. A lot of reds and yellows were used along with many chandeliers and mirrors. Opulent is the best word to describe the interior decor.

There are a number of exhibits in the museum. The first exhibit is a small welcome area to discuss the history of the building. The tour moves to the Governor's suite of offices where a list of governors can be found as well as artifacts they may have had during their stay at the house. From there it is possible to reach the National Representation Exhibit which shows the congressional leaders of now and the past.

Huey Long Animatronics have an exhibit called "The Kingfish Speaks.'' It is a one of a kind display. The Statehouses of Louisiana are shown in the next few exhibits. The different cities in which the capitol has been as well as architectural interests are explained.

The second floor of the museum hosts other exhibits like the Louisiana Purchase, Agricultural department, Senate and House Chambers. Political history regarding voting, electing officials, and on air speeches are also on display at the museum. The museum is not Baton Rouge's only place to visit for tourists, but it is rich with history for those who enjoy learning.

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