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Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

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Baton Rouge is the state capitol of Louisiana. It's centrally located along the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and Shreveport, though closer to New Orleans.

The name 'Baton Rouge' means 'Red Stick' in French. The French explorers who discovered the place, are said to have found a red stick in the ground there, denoting either an Indian boundary line or a signal indicating 'Market Gathering Today'1, depending on whom you ask.

The Capitol

The current state capitol building of Louisiana is 30 storeys tall. Needless to say, it is a skyscraper, not a traditional domed capitol structure. It was built in the 1930s, and has been the tallest state capitol building in the USA throughout its existence.

The capitol building was the idea of Huey Long, a Louisiana politician who wanted the state to have the most impressive capitol building in the nation. As it turned out, he got elected to the US Senate instead of getting the governorship, and never got to inhabit his own building. However, he was assassinated there, in 1938, and one can still see the bullet holes in the walls of a hallway. He's buried in front of the building, beneath a statue of himself and is still something of a folk hero, judging by the tourist brochures.

The capitol has an observation deck, a gift shop, an exhibit on Creole folk, artefacts including walking sticks, and a meditation room. The meditation room has two Bibles, two Christian crosses, and several framed placards listing the official Louisiana State Mothers for every year since 1945. One can infer from this the relative importance of religion and childbearing to the Louisiana state of mind.

Nearby the capitol are the Arsenal Museum and the Pentagon Barracks. They offer some historical artefacts, and some history of local battles - Baton Rouge saw some action during the US Civil War.

Other Attractions

The Louisiana Museum of Art and Science resides in a smallish building on the Baton Rouge riverfront. Suffice it to say, one theme for the museum just wasn't enough.

Baton Rouge has three floating attractions at the riverfront. Two are casinos (roughly 80% occupied by slot machines; the rest is divided between craps, poker and blackjack). The third is a destroyer, the USS Kidd. The Kidd saw action in World War II. It was taken out of the war by a kamikaze attack at Okinawa, but was later repaired, and served for years after. It is unusual in that its tour is self-guided. You can sit in the mess halls, try out the Navy bunks, and climb the ladders between decks in any order you like. You can even use the lavatories on ship, if you don't mind that the tour groups come through there.

Baton Rouge is otherwise light on downtown attractions. It has a couple of 'scenic architectural districts', Spanish Town and Beauregard Town, with run-down houses. Its downtown shopping district had virtually no stores open on the day after Thanksgiving 2000, the busiest shopping day of the year for the United States. The best restaurant in town is quite likely at one of the casinos. Baton Rouge has one operational hotel (family-owned) in its downtown district, and one abandoned hotel with all the windows smashed in. Visitors to Baton Rouge usually stay in its suburbs.

Baton Rouge is home to Louisiana State University and the university environs are somewhat run-down, compared to other major American universities. Its high-class shopping areas look like normal shopping malls whereas its other shopping areas look dangerous. One laundromat in the area has a warning in big red letters: 'No Alcohol On Premises. No Drugs.'


A major industry is river transportation. Baton Rouge is the head of navigation for ocean-going vessels on the Mississippi River. This is because it has a cross-river railroad bridge with low clearance (which coincidentally prohibits ocean-going vessels), slightly up-river from the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. Even so, most river traffic into Baton Rouge consists of river barges.

Baton Rouge also has several factories, primarily petroleum and chemicals.

1Or whatever the Native American equivalent of a Blue Light Special was.

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