Standing 34 stories tall, the Louisiana State Capitol building is the tallest state capitol in the United States, and one of only four skyscraper capitols (the others are located in Florida, Nebraska, and North Dakota.) Located in downtown Baton Rouge on 27 acres of land, it was built in the early 1930's to replace the old state capitol building, and is the current seat of the Louisiana state legislature.
As part of his campaign platform while running for governor of Louisiana, Huey Pierce Long proposed the idea for a new state capitol building. Elected governor in 1928, by January of 1930 Long went to the State Board of Liquidation for $5000 to procure the services of the New Orleans architectural firm of Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth to design a new capitol. When the amendment to build a new capitol failed to pass during the regular session of the legislature in 1930, Long called a special session that year to force passage of the amendment. The first time the amendment was brought up for consideration during the special session, it was four votes shy of the two-thirds needed to pass. A roll call vote was ordered, which gave Long time (having attended the vote) to persuade enough legislators to pass the amendment. Agreeing with Governor Long by a ratio of 14 to 1, the voters of Louisiana also passed the amendment and on December 16, 1930 construction began.
At the suggestion of Long, the architects designed a skyscraper based on the Nebraska state capitol model. The George A. Fuller Company of Washington, D.C. was hired for the building's construction, and to facilitate the construction the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad Company laid a spur directly to the construction site. This spur eventually carried approximately 2500 railcars' worth of construction materials to the site, including Alabama limestone for the exterior, marble from Italy and Vermont, and granite from Minnesota.
Construction was completed only fourteen months after it began at a cost of approximately $5 million. The building was dedicated on May 16, 1932 to coincide with the inauguration of the new governor, Oscar K. Allen. Long was unable to attend the dedication of the capitol, as he was in Washington, D.C. having been elected to the United States Senate.
Built in the Art Deco style and standing approximately 450 feet tall, the building is covered in Alabama limestone and sits amidst well-sculptured gardens. Trees native to Louisiana, such as the magnolia, live oak, and palm are also featured prominently around the 27 acre capitol grounds, which is formally known as Capitol Park. The gravesite and memorial of Huey Long is a focal point of the park grounds, with a statue of Long holding a model of the capitol overlooking his grave.
The entrance of the capitol features a grand staircase of 48 steps, with each step bearing the name of a state and the date they were admitted to the Union. Alaska and Hawaii were added on the topmost step upon their statehood, along with the motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, and the state motto, Union, Justice, and Confidence. Statues are featured on either side of the stairway: to the east is The Patriot, a statue of a soldier and mourners of a soldier slain in battle; to the west is The Pioneers, representing the men and women who founded Louisiana. Both statues were sculpted by C.M. Dodd and designed by Lorado Taft.
At the top of the stairs is the building's 50 foot high main entrance. Next to the entrance engraved into the stone is the quotation "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" said by Robert Livingston on the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Reliefs around the doors feature Louisiana's resources and economy; a pair of eagles on either side of the state bird (the pelican) and the state seal are carved above the door. Another carving above the eagles depicts a native American on either end of four figures bearing coats of arms of the countries that have ruled Louisiana: Spain, the United States, the Confederacy, and France.
The base of the building has a frieze which, among other things, includes depictions of the Louisiana justice system and its admission to the Union. An octagon on the exterior of the 22nd floor of the capitol features four statues representing Philosophy, Art, Law and Science. Five stories above the statues is the observation deck on the 27th floor, and topping the capitol is a cupola.
- Memorial Hall
Just inside of the main entrance is Memorial Hall which is two stories high and 120 feet long, with a floor made out of stone quarried from Mt. Vesuvius in Italy. In the middle of the hall is a bronze relief map of Louisiana weighing 3,290 pounds featuring symbols of the state's products and industries and bordered by the names of Louisiana's 64 parishes. Opposite the entrance doors on the north end of the hall are the solid bronze elevator doors, upon which are reliefs of the American governors of the state beginning with W.C.C. Claiborne and ending with Long. Hanging above the elevator doors are the flags that have flown over the state: Castille and Leon, Fleur-de-Lis, Union Jack, Bourbon Spain, French Tri-Color, 15 star United States flag, Lone Star of the Republic of West Florida, National Flag of Louisiana, Confederate Stars and Bars, Louisiana State flag, and the United States flag. Vases on each side of the elevator with bases of solid gold and constructed from Sevres porcelain were a gift from France in 1934.
Statues made of white marble from Georgia of four Louisiana governors also stand in Memorial Hall: Jean Baptiste LeMoyne Sieur de Bienville, Claiborne, Henry Watkins Allen, and Francis T. Nicholls. A bust of Louisiana's first African-American governor, P.B.S. Pinchback is next to the statue of Allen. On the east wall hangs a mural named Goddess of Knowledge and Time, and on the west wall hangs a mural named Abundance of the Earth, both oil on canvas by Jules Guerin. To the east and west lie the entrances to the House and Senate chambers respectively, each behind one ton bronze doors featuring scenes of Louisiana history on the House door and scenes of colonial Louisiana on the Senate door.
- The House Chamber
The Louisiana House of Representatives Chamber features a lobby floor made of French marble, a staircase made of Spanish marble which leads to the spectator's gallery, and walls made of French marble and Italian stone. Four one ton bronze chandeliers hang from the coffered hand-painted ceiling of celotex, which is made from begasse, a by-product of sugar cane refining. A motif of native animals and swamp plants ring the top of the chamber walls on a molded plaster frieze. Desks in the chamber are made from Australian Laurel and American Walnut.
- The Executive Corridor
Behind the House and Senate Chambers lies the Executive Corridor, which leads between the House and Senate and originally contained the governor and governor's staff offices. This is the area in which Huey P. Long was assassinated on September 8, 1935 by Dr. Carl A. Weiss; the bullet holes are still visible in the marble wall and a plaque and glass display case also mark the area where Long was shot.
- The Senate Chamber
As opulent as the House Chamber, the Senate lobby floor is made from Italian marble and the walls are made of marble and stone from Germany and France. The ceiling of the Senate features 64 tiles, one for each of the 64 Louisiana parishes, and the desks are made of White Holly and American Walnut. Also on the ceiling above the main entrance is a piece of shrapnel embedded into the ceiling, left there as a reminder of a bomb that exploded on a Sunday afternoon in 1970 when the Chamber was empty.