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  • Museum of Political HistoryMuseum of Political History Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    The Old Louisiana State Capitol building is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that was home to the state's legislature from the mid19th century until the new tower building that was built in 1929. The structure was built to look and act like a castle, which caused many local residents to call it the Louisiana Castle, the Castle on the River, the Castle of Baton Rouge or the Museum of Political History, although the majority of people just call it the old capitol building. Therefore, when someone talks of the "old state capitol", in the state, they are mostly referring to this structure, rather than the other two that were built in other capital cities; Donaldsonville and New Orleans. The legislature would decide to move the capitol from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1846, but many representatives were afraid that the city that held the most people would become the most powerful in the state with this new concentration of power. In 1840, New Orleans had about 102,000 people, the fourth biggest in the nation, while Baton Rouge only had 2269. So, in September, 1847, the city of Baton Rouge gave the state a $20,000 plot of land for the new state capitol building, which took the seat away from New Orleans. The donated land sat high above the city on a bluff that looks out over the Mississippi River, and was the place where the red pole stood, or le baton rouge, that French explorers marked with a large red pole, denoting the spot where a big Native American council would meet. The building that was constructed on the hill is considered one of the best examples of Gothic Revival architectures in the country, which New York architect James Dakin planned. He wanted it to be different than most state capitol buildings that were copies of the main capitol building in Washington, so he thought of this neo-Gothic medieval castle that looks upon the mighty Mississippi, with turrets and crenallations. The huge floorplan, exterior glass stained windows, towers and gables helped it to look like a 15th century Gothic cathedral, that Dakin called as "Castellated gothic" since it is decorated with cast iron that is cheaper and last longer than traditional materials used then. In 1859, it was featured in the most applauded DeBow's Review, the most important periodical in antebellum south. Mark Twain, traveling by as a steam boat captain in the 1850s, said that it was "pathetic that the whitewashed castle, with turrets and things should ever have been built in the otherwise honorable place". In the Civil War, Admiral David Farragut, would capture the city of New Orleans, in 1862, and the government left Baton Rouge. The union troops would use "the old grey castle" as a prison and then garrison for African-American troops under General Culver Grover, and while this happened, the capitol building caught on fire, twice. The fires caused the building to become nothing more than an empty shell gutted and abandoned by the union troops. By 1882, the marvelous and grand old building was completely reconstructed by engineer and architect, William A. Freret, that is given the credit for the new spiral staircase and magnificent stained glass dome that have become the best points in the building. After being restored, it would be used until 1932, when it was emptied into the new capitol building and was used for a federally chartered veteran's organizations and seat of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The gorgeous castle was again restorated in the 1990s, and became the Museum of Political History, with the newest changes happening on the outside fascade that was redone in shades of tan stucco; that is quite different from the old stone coloring. Many events are now held here, including the yearly ball, where the participants recreate the traditions and dances of the French culture, wearing traditional 18th and 19th centuries clothes. It has been considered the only real castle on the continent, in the most traditional sense of the word and is found in downtown Baton Rouge, easily within walking distance of the new capital structure and most of the cultural important buildings in the city. These include the St. Joseph Cathedral, Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, the Old Louisiana Governor's Mansion and the new Shaw Center, which has become nationally acclaimed. Inside the old capitol building, there is a museum that contains numerous exhibits that pertain to the political history of the state and home to the pistol that was used to murder Huey Long, which is also showed.

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  • USS KiddUSS Kidd Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    The USS Kidd (DD-661) is a Fletcher class destroyer in the US Navy, and the first to be named after Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, that was killed on the bridge of his flagship, the USS Arizona, when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. He was the first US Navy flag officer to die in WWII and his namesake was launched in February, 1943 by the Federal Shipbuilding & Dry-dock Co., Kearny, New Jersey. His wife, or widow, would be the one that sponsored the ship, and as she went on her first cruise, across the New York Harbor, the ship proudly flew the Jolly Roger on her foremast, and as she was outfitted, the crew decided to adopt pirate captain William Kidd as their mascot, getting a local artist to paint the pirate figure on the foreward smokestack. After taking her shakedown cruise out of Casco Bay, Maine, in June, the Kidd sailed the Atlantic and the Caribbean escorting larger combat vessels until she left for the Pacific in August of 1943 with the South Dakota and Alabama, and arrived Pearl in September, beginning her escort of heavy aircraft carriers that were going to Wake Island for the heavy bombing air attacks in October, returning to Pearl just five days later.  The Kidd would see heavy action in the war, taking part in almost every important naval campaign in the Pacific, fighting gallantly in the invasion of the Marshall Islands, Okinawa, the Philippines and the Gilbert Islands. In August of 1945, she sailed into Pearl Harbor and then went back to San Diego for inactivation, and was decommissioned in December of 1946; going into the Pacific Reserve Fleet. In the Korean War, she was one of the ships that were recommissioned, and in 1951 sailed into the western Pacific, arriving in Japan in July. She became part of Task Force 77 and patrolled off the coast of Korea until September when she went to the east coast bombing targets along there. She came back to San Diego in February of 1952, got refitted and went back to Korea in September of that same year. She would sail back to San Diego in March, 1953, and was part of many cruises around the Pacific until she was sent to Norfolk in February 1962 and became part of the Naval Destroyer School at Newport, R.I., only to be set on a cruise to the Caribbean in July of 1962, and then decommissioned in June 1964, becoming part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and being berthed a the Philadelphia Shipyard. The Kidd became one of three Fletcher class ships set aside for memorials and came to Baton Rouge in May 1982. Now she proudly sets as a museum for those that wish to visit her and view the great ship that is the one that was never modernized and has been restored to her former glory. The ship received 8 battle stars for her WWII service and 4 battle stars for Korea.

January 11, 2010