Louisiana State Legislature
What began as the dream of one man - Huey P. Long - became a symbol of the pride, the history and the spirit of Louisiana's people.
To construct a State Capitol Building during the 1930s, the time of the Great Depression, was an idea only a powerful politician could have made a reality.
As governor, Huey Long worked long and hard to convince the public and the legislature that a new State Capitol would eventually save the state money because of its efficient and modern structure.
A special session of the legislature was called to vote on the amendment that would provide the funding for construction. The first vote fell four votes short of the two-thirds majority that was needed. The Speaker of the House ordered a rollcall vote and, while the list of names was read, Governor Long, standing in the back of the chamber, had time to encourage a few legislators to vote in favor of his building. The vote passed and the funding was approved.
In 1935, the Louisiana State Capitol Building was the site of Huey P. Long's assassination. Senator Long was buried on the grounds and his statue faces the Capitol.
The New Louisiana State Capitol was completed in March, 1932, in a mere 14 months and stands on a 27-acre tract.
As the tallest state capitol in the United States, the building is 450 feet high with 34 floors. Twenty-five hundred rail cars were needed to bring in the limestone used on the exterior and the interior marbles which came from distant places, including Vermont and Italy. The cost to complete the building was a modest $5 million.
The architects used symbolism throughout the design of the building. As the square tower rises, it is cut away to an octagon at the 22nd floor. At this point four allegorical winged figures guard the corners and they represent Law, Science, Philosophy and Art.
The entrance is approached by a grand staircase with one step for each of the 48 states, listed in the order of their admittance to the Union. Alaska and Hawaii were added to the top step when they were made states. The top step is carved with E Pluribus Unum from the Great Seal of the United States; it means "One from Many."
Louisiana's state symbol, the pelican, decorates the side of the steps and is used extensively elsewhere in the building.
Monumental statues flank the stairs. To the east is The Patriots - an armored soldier and the mourners of a warrior slain in battle. To the west is The Pioneers - men and women of courage who created our state out of the wilderness. The carved frieze around the base of the building illustrates Louisiana's struggles and its admission to the Union, the state of war, the Louisiana justice system, and the peaceful development of natural resources. Portraits of great men in Louisiana history also are found on the House and Senate chambers' exterior.
"We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives. . . The United States take rank today among the first powers of the world." This quotation is chiseled in stone beside the 50 foot high main entrance. These are the words recorded at the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 by Robert Livingston, the American ambassador who negotiated the purchase from France.
The portal around the doors is decorated with reliefs showing Louisiana's economy and resources. Above the door, two eagles flank the state seal with the pelican. Above the eagles are six figures with coats of arms representing the countries that have ruled Louisiana: Indians represent the original inhabitants and the four central figures represent Spain, the United States, the Confederacy and France.
In the striking Memorial Hall, there is a large bronze relief map of Louisiana that shows many of the state's products and is encircled by the names of the 64 parishes.
On the walls are two large mural paintings. These oil paintings on canvas show idealized scenes of family, harvest, rich farmlands and the arts of sculpture, music and literature.
Straight ahead, the elevator doors feature portraits of all American governors of Louisiana, from Claiborne to Long. Above the elevators is a bronze relief of Huey Long, not part of the original building, that was donated by the United Confederate Veterans.
Flags of the various nations which have ruled Louisiana hang from the balcony above: Castile and Leon, Bourbon France, Bourbon Spain, England, French tricolor, 15-star U.S. flag, flag of the Republic of West Florida, Louisiana national flag, Confederate Battle flag, Confederate Stars and Bars, Louisiana State flag, and the modern U.S. flag.
Double life-size sculptures of some of Louisiana's governors stand in the Hall: Bienville, first colonial governor; Claiborne, first American governor; Allen, confederate governor; Nicholls, first modern post-Reconstruction governor; and P.B.S. Pinchback, the first black governor of the state.
Chambers of both the Senate and the House of Representatives can be reached through magnificent bronze doors. These doors are an example of superior workmanship. Each weighs a solid ton, yet opens as smoothly as a well-crafted cabinet on oiled hinges. Panels on the House doors represent events in the state's history; Senate doors depict colonial Louisiana.
Look to the west in the Senate chamber at the detail present everywhere - from the desks to the rails, ceiling, and grillwork. Many kinds of stone have been used in the walls, and the desks are of walnut and Australian laurel wood. The coffered ceiling is of celotex which is made from bagasse, a by-product of sugar production.
To the east, the House chamber is similar to the Senate in the use of stone, bronze and wood, but Louisiana symbols like pine cones, black-eyed Susans, and cattails are used.
To the rear of the first floor is the executive corridor which connects the legislative chambers and passes in front of the original governor's suite. In the center is a plaque marking the place where Long, then a U.S. Senator, was shot September 8, 1935.
The Observation Deck
The Observation Deck is on the 27th floor and overlooks Baton Rouge at a height of 350 feet. The views are spectacular. To the east are formal rose gardens and a well-preserved Arsenal, constructed in 1835. To the west, the Mississippi flows majestically toward the Gulf. To the north is Louisiana's prosperous and economically important chemical corridor and in the distance stands Southern University. To the south are the capitol gardens with the grave and statue of Huey P. Long. Louisiana State University can be seen in the distance.