On September 21, 1847, the city of Baton Rouge donated land for the state’s new capitol building.

Just two years earlier, in 1845, Louisiana legislators were charged with finding a location for a new state capitol building that was more than 60 miles from New Orleans, where the state capitol was located at the time.

The lawmakers chose the city of Baton Rouge, 81.2 miles from New Orleans, after the city donated land it had recently purchased to the state. Architect James Dankins was selected to design the new building, and the state’s lawmakers held their first meeting at the new capitol in 1850. 

During the Civil War, state lawmakers moved the capitol to the cities of Opelousas and Shreveport after Union troops took over the building in 1862. 

A fire occurred during Union occupation of the state capitol, destroying the interior. After the Civil War, the state capitol moved temporarily to New Orleans and the building remained vacant until repairs were completed in the early 1880s. 

The restructured building included a cast iron spiral staircase, a stained glass dome, and the addition of exterior towers. Another fire occurred in 1906, requiring more repairs to the building.   

The building would remain the capitol until the early 1930s, when the state, under the administration of Gov. Huey P. Long, commissioned a new building, the one still in use today. 

The new capitol was completed in 1932. In 1936, the  Works Progress Administration of Louisiana moved into the old building, the first in a series of occupants that would use it over the next several decades. From 1948 until 1991, the building housed veterans’ organizations in the state. The aging structure was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976. 

In 1990, the Old State Capitol was transferred to the Secretary of State and closed for extensive renovations. Four years later, the building reopened as a museum — the Louisiana Center for Political and Government History. Today there are guided tours, programs and exhibits in the building.  

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Shannon Stecker is a creative writer, a marketing director, and a lover of stories. She has spent the past 15 years of her career in a creative space – as a print and broadcast journalist, a freelance...