Baton Rouge, Louisiana


It’s not unusual for a state capitol building to be an attraction on the city’s skyline, but it is unusual for the capitol to dominate it.  The tallest building in Baton Rouge is the 34 story, 450-foot-tall art-deco capitol, completed in 1932.  It’s also the tallest state capitol building in the United States.

The front steps of the Louisiana State Capitol display the names of all 50 states.  Hawaii and Alaska have to share a step, since they joined the Union after the capitol building was constructed.  (Of course, I stopped at the Florida step, to pay homage to my adopted home state).

If it wasn’t for a small parking lot, there would be a great view of Baton Rouge’s downtown from the steps of the capitol.

Louisiana’s old state capitol building is also hard to miss.  Sure, it’s not 34 stories tall.  Instead, it grabs your attention by looking like a castle, transplanted here from medieval times.

The old state capitol building dates back to the late 1840’s, when lawmakers moved the capitol out of New Orleans.  The old capitol building (which was, of course, at the time new), was built in the Gothic Revival style.  During the Civil War, Union troops used the castle as a prison, then as a garrison — and in the process, it caught fire twice.  In 1882 it was reconstructed, then served as the state house until 1932, when the new capitol building was complete.

Baton Rouge means “red stick” in French.  When early explorers made their way up the Mississippi River, they noticed a bloody red post at Baton Rouge’s present day location–the stick marked the dividing line between two native hunting grounds. (By another account, the red pole may have designated a Native American council meeting site.  Either way, the location of the red stick is believed to be the current location of the Old Capitol Building.)

Across the street from the old capitol building, there’s a park with a pier that stretches out into the Mississippi River. From here, you can get a nice view of the Baton Rouge skyline (the new capitol building is about 8 blocks north of here — you can see its tip on the left side of the picture, behind another building).

There’s also a good view of the Interstate 10 bridge over the Mississippi…

… and the USS Kidd, which served for 20 years (including World War II and the Korean War).  Now, it serves as the centerpiece for the Louisiana Naval War Memorial.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not featured the USS Kidd, as the only naval museum that both floats and sits on dry ground.  During the fall and winter months, the Mississippi River is low, and the ship rests on a cradle (you can actually walk underneath the ship during this time of year).  When the water rises, the ship floats.

Admission to the USS Kidd and the nearby museum is $8 for adults, $5 for children.  Check the USS Kidd’s website for current information.

Once you’re done in Baton Rouge, you’ll want to head north on US 61.  The fastest way to get out of town will likely be Interstate 110 north, which dead-ends at US 61.

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