In the 1930’s, this Louisiana skyscraper reflected the style of America’s tallest buildings. The State Capitol opened in 1932, a year after the Empire State Building in New York. This is the vision of Governor Huey Long, whose bronze figure stands squarely in front of the towering structure.
Capitol tour guide Lance Sullivan explained that Governor Long wanted to make a statement, “He loved the idea of having this modern building rising out of the flatland in south Louisiana, rising up and signaling that the state itself was on the rise as it was becoming more modern with the rest of the country.” For nearly four decades, this was the tallest building in Louisiana. And to this day it’s taller than all state capitols and the U.S. Capitol.
At 27 floors up, you still get a stunning view of Baton Rouge and the Mississippi River. You can see LSU’s Tiger Stadium to the south, activity in the port, which is the furthest point upriver for ocean-going ships, oil refineries, and the garden where Huey Long is buried.
Huey Long never served in this Capitol as governor. He became a U.S. Senator before it was finished. But Long still spent time here. According to Sullivan, “A lot of times when he would come to the Capitol building, he would kick the governor out of the Governor’s Office and use that as his office.”
Three years after the Capitol opened, Long was gunned down when he stepped out of the Governor’s Office in a back hallway. His accused assassin, Dr. Carl Weiss, was the son-in-law of a judge who was one of Long’s political opponents. “Dr. Weiss stepped up from the column and shoots him once or twice,” Sullivan says. “Dr. Weiss is killed by the other body guards that were present and he’s actually shot 61 times.”
In a back hallway outside the old Governor’s Office, the stone wall still shows the impact of several bullets.
One of the bullet holes is clearly visible over the left shoulder of a bronze statue of Lasalle, which was on display in the hallway at the time of the shooting.
There was another act of violence in the Senate Chamber in 1970 during the highly contentious debate over right to work legislation. About midnite on a Sunday when no one was here, an explosion of dynamite tore through the room.
A wood splinter remains stuck in the ceiling tiles high above the desks in the Louisiana Senate Chamber.
It’s worth looking at the detail in this building. In the depths of the Great Depression, it seems no expense was spared here.
You will see approximately 26 different types of marble and stone from all around the world. The floors are cut from volcanic rock from Italy’s Mount Vesuvius. The murals, the ceiling paintings, the statues and carvings all tell a 1930’s version of the state’s history. The Capitol remains a giant memorial to the populist governor and his vision for the Louisiana.
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