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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Baton Rouge

I had several appointments in downtown Baton Rouge this past week, but unfortunately, each time I wanted to take some pictures, I was foiled by weather or other appointments. So today I spent some time walking around the downtown area to catch you up on where I've been.

It is said that the Baton Rouge area has been inhabited since 8000 BC, but modern Baton Rouge can be traced back to 1699 when it was discovered by French explorer Sieur d'Iberville. Along the Mississippi River, d'Iberville saw a cypress pole, from which were hanging bloody animals and fish. This “red stick” gave Baton Rouge it's name. Today Baton Rouge has about a quarter of a million residents, with nearly 800,000 residing in the metro area. In addition to being the capitol of Louisiana and home to the largest college in the state, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge is home to a large contingent of petrochemical companies, and is the ninth-largest port in the U.S. Based on weight.

As a Chicago native, I have a hard time using words like “skyline” or “tall buildings” to describe downtown Baton Rouge, but the city does have several 20+ story buildings in the central business district. As the state capitol, downtown Baton Rouge also has a number of municipal, state and federal buildings. Many of the are captured in the photos below. There has been an effort over the last several years to revitalize downtown Baton Rouge. In particular, some of the activity around Lafayette Street and Third Street is promising.

On Lafayette Street, you have the Shaw Center, a very distinctive piece of architecture housing the LSU Art Museum and a performance space, and the Hilton Capitol Center, a beautiful, historic hotel that was completely renovated/restored a few years ago. Third Street has a few neat little restaurants/bars. I have heard discussion of closing Third Street to vehicular traffic and attempting to make it more like Bourbon Street in New Orleans or Beale Street in Memphis. I think that is a long way off, for better or worse.

There are plenty of interesting areas just outside of downtown, but today's tour focuses just on the central business district. 100+ pictures ahead, so grab some refreshments. I hope you enjoy.