ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Louisiana's Old State Capitol
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Louisiana's Old State Capitol
Old Louisiana State Capitol
The historic Old Louisiana State Capitol stands
on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River in
downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Old Louisiana State Capitol
Gothic in design, the historic
Old State Capitol in Baton
Rouge was torched by Union
troops during the Civil War.
Mark Twin's Opinion
Famed American writer Mark
Twain hated the design of the
Old State Capitol. He once
wrote it should be blown up.
Old State Capitol - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge's Gothic Castle
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: August 19, 2012
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Gothic Jewel in Baton Rouge
The historic Old State Capitol
rises from the top of a bluff
overlooking the Mississippi
River. It was designed by
architect James H. Dakin.
Louisiana State Capitol
The new Louisiana State
Capitol was begun during the
administration of the famed
Kingfish of Louisiana politics,
Huey P. Long.
The historic Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge
has been a Louisiana landmark since it was
completed in 1852.

Beautifully restored, it is home to the state's
Museum of Political History and is open to
the public every Tuesday through Saturday.

Baton Rouge had been the colonial capital of
Spanish West Florida prior to 1810, but lost
its status as a seat of government during the
revolution of that year. The armed forces of
Republic of West Florida captured Fort
San Carlos in Baton Rouge and raised a
blue flag with a white star (known today as
the Bonnie Blue Flag) over the city, ending
forever Spain's hold on any part of Louisiana.

The Republic's capital was maintained in St.
Francisville even after the seizure of Baton
Rouge. The U.S. invaded West Florida just
three months later and consolidated powder
in the territorial capital of New Orleans. When
Louisiana became a state in 1812, the
capitol was retained in the Crescent City.

Baton Rouge, however, surged in population
and prominence after statehood and never
gave up the fight to regain its status as a
capital city. The determination of its leaders
paid off in 1847 when the city was named the
state capital of Louisiana.

As part of its effort to attract capital city status,
Baton Rouge had offered a site atop the high
bluff overlooking the Mississippi River for a
capitol building. New Orleans architect
James Harrison Dakin was immediately
hired to design a capitol building.

Dakin's design was a significant departure
from those adopted by most of the Southern
states. Only Georgia had a capitol of Gothic
design when Louisiana decided to build one
of the most magnificent public buildings of
that style ever built in the United States.

The Louisiana State Capitol rose during the
years 1847-1852 in the Crenellated Gothic
style. Its walls were built of masonry, but then
covered with plaster to give the building the
appearance of stone construction. James
Harrison Dakin died the same year that his
masterpiece, Baton Rouge's castle on the
hill, was completed.

The Old State Capitol continued to serve its
purpose after Louisiana seceded from the
Union in 1861. The state's Confederate
governor and legislature did business there
until the fleet of Admiral David G. Farragut ran
between Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip on
the lower Mississippi and captured New
Orleans. Farragut quickly turned his aim

As the Union warships closed in on Baton
Rouge in early May 1862, the governor and
legislators withdrew into the interior of the
state. Farragut's men occupied the Baton
Rouge Arsenal on May 9, 1862, and the city
itself surrendered twenty days later.

A Confederate attempt to retake the city was
driven back during the
Battle of Baton Rouge
on August 5, 1862. The famed Confederate
ironclad CSS Arkansas was blown up by her
own crew after the ship's engines failed
within sight  of the Old State Capitol. Baton
Rouge remained in Union hands until the
end of the War Between the States (or Civil
Historic Sites in Baton Rouge
Federal troops set fire to the capitol building,
supposedly by accident, on December 28,
1862. Its interior was gutted.

The end of the war brought Reconstruction.
The carpetbaggers and scalawags who
controlled the state during that era kept their
capitol in New Orleans. Their rule came to an
end in 1882 when Democrats, many of them
former Confederates, once again gained
control of the state. Baton Rouge once again
became the capital city.

A blackened ruin, the old capitol building was
completely rebuilt under the direction of
William A. Freret. He added more light to the
interior and built the magnificent grand
staircase that is a much loved part of the
building today. The building was returned to
service on March 1, 1882, nearly 20 years
after it had first been taken by Union troops.

Not everyone liked the idea of restoring and
renovating the castle on the hill. American
writer Mark Twain, for example, urged that it
be blown up in favor of something new and

Fortunately such advice was disregarded
and the beautiful old building survived the
turbulent years of the 19th century. The new
State Capitol was completed nearby in 1932,
but the Old Capitol, as it became known,
remained a part of the Baton Rouge skyline.

Time and neglect took their toll on the historic
structure, but it was renovated and restored
in a project begun in 1991 and inspired by a
massive outpouring of support from citizens
and political leaders alike. Now a museum of
political history, Louisiana's Old State Capitol
is located at 100 North Boulevard in Baton
Rouge. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to
4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Please click here for directions and more