Baton Rouge Tidbits
From afar it could well be a medieval castle standing majestically high, surrounded by luscious trees that sits on top of a vibrantly green hill. Its quiet towers and battlements void of any battle marks were never used by archers to fight off oncoming invaders, the unusually opulent barbican, prominently highlighted by glass stained window does not lead to an open courtyard. It instead opens to a luxuriously designed interior. Elegant black and white marbled floor, rich wood paneling, a dark wrought iron staircase that leads the eyes up to an overhead kaleidoscope display of colors of the stained glass skylight, renders anyone speechless. Welcome to Old Louisiana Capitol. This gothic architectural beauty overlooking Mississippi River and a National History Landmark is just one of the reasons that sets Baton Rouge apart from the rest.
Located on the banks of Mississippi, Baton Rouge, is the capital of the U.S. state of Louisiana and forms the parish seat of East Baton Rouge. French for Red Stick, Baton Rouge was named after a red pole an exploration party led by French explorer, Sieur d’lberville, saw, marking the boundary between the Houma and Bayogoula tribal hunting grounds in 1699.
Since then, the city has become a major industrial petrochemical, medical, research, motion picture, and growing technology center of the American South. Being the farthest upstream Mississippi River port capable of handling Panamax ships, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge is the tenth largest in the United States in terms of tonnage shipped.
Its strategic site upon the Istruoma Bluff upriver the Mississippi River Delta, rendered the city safe from seasonal flooding and allowed development of business centers to thrive. At present, Baton Rouge is enjoying an economy that is growing at a faster rate than predicted. Job growth has increased higher than projected and unemployment has gone down. The rise in population of young entrepreneurs and businesses has also charged up the landscape of the city. With the new millennials flocking the city there was a rise in entertainment and new venues, as well as fine dining, bars and local dives.
Louisiana has the most distinct culture in the United states. Aside from going through French, British and Spanish colonization, exiles from Canada, the Acadians or “Cajuns” and the heavily French, Africans and Caribbean influenced Creole, shaped the eclectic culture of this state. Baton Rouge, the heart of everything Louisiana offers just that. It is tasted in their hot food, it is heard in their vibrantly rich music, it is seen in their distinct architecture, it is exhibited on the historic neighborhoods like the diverse Spanish Town, home to the State Capitol and the city’s largest Mardi Gras Parade. Garden District, also an established historic neighborhood is known for the upscale home. While Downtown, Baton Rouge’s central business district, is an enjoyable way to experience 300-year political history and very modern present time in one area. Standing side by side with the impressive modern architecture office, art and museum buildings are the stately Old Governor’s Mansion, the splendid looking Old State Capitol and some other structures that endured time and events.
Senses and intellect are gratified as one steps back in time, in historic places such as the 18th century plantation with Colonial mansions such as the Oakley House, where John James Audobon, the famous American ornithologist, naturalist and painter lived for a while. Aside from the mansion where he walked through the weaving room or formal and kitchen gardens, he must have spent time anywhere in the one hundred acres woodland site where a plantation barn, two slave cabins and a natural trail lined with poplar and magnolia trees stood through the centuries. Time froze in 1820’s in this plantation with the year round living history and program.
The city also has more than 180 parks and unique facilities mirroring the history and rich natural resources in the region. It includes a swamp nature center and conservation area, a performing arts theater, an art gallery, as arboretum, seven golf courses, an extreme sports park, an equestrian park, a state-of-the-art observatory.
Among many things, historical or present times, Baton Rouge is known for its people. Their love for music, food, parades, feasts, families, parties, merrymaking, dancing, people and football is very contagious. Starting with the annual loud and colorful Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday where visitors flock to party all day and night and catch beads. Football is serious business in this city, where tail gaiting is taken to the extremes with their big pot of Jambalayas and Alligator recipes. Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium, has a capacity of 90,000 people is nicknamed “Death Valley” and is the scariest venue for opposing teams. Louisianas zest for life is truly inspiring.
On January 17, 1817, one century after the red pole was observed, then-Louisiana governor Jacques Villere signed a legislative act incorporating Baton Rouge. In 1846, the Louisiana Legislature designated Baton Rouge as the State Capital, replacing New Orleans. Thus, this year Baton Rouge is celebrating its bicentennial with a year-long events and festivals.