Recently my family and I moved to the small Southern Capital city of Louisiana, also known as Baton Rouge or ‘The Red Stick’. Founded in 1719, the city has seen nearly seven national flags fly above it’s waterfront and has been a major industrial and shipping location in the American South.
Upon arriving I honestly was not sure what to expect, but the city itself is rather beautiful. It has a unique Southern Charm to it that’s hard to find. One thing I was taken aback by was the greenery, and apparently it is the most tree canopied city in North America. The city is also home to The Louisiana State University (LSU) and Southern University, a historical black college. So far I have only lived in the city for a few weeks and have been very impressed with the amount of growth it seems to have, after doing some research I have found the following things:
- The city has the ninth largest port in the US, and is currently undergoing an expansion
- Three Fortune 500 companies call Baton Rouge home or have a headquarters located here: IBM, Shaw, and CB&I
- Lamar advertising also calls the city home, that company is a Fortune 1000 company
- The city will be home to one of the largest water preservation campuses in a few years
So for me, being an urban enthusiast, I’m excited to be living here during what seems to be the cities ‘golden age’ of development.
In addition to researching fun city trivia I also wanted to find any historical information I could, and boy was I in for a shocker! I discovered this map searching through Google:
The link brought me to this amazing French-American site
In 1806 Baton Rouge was still apart of Spanish American territory and because of it’s natural barrier to hurricanes and prime location the city had a promising trading future. In response to this Elie Toutant Beauregard wanted to create a new city center in French Colonial Tradition. So after many attempts at creating a master-plan he contacted Arsene Lacarrière Latour a French architect who had recently arrived in New Orleans to create one.
According to the article, “The city Lacarrière Latour had imagined was anchored on the Mississippi River and bordered on three sides by wide boulevards shaded. It focused on either side of a central axis (now Government Street) extending from the River to the east, with its center a large square (Place Royale), the heart of the city, which opened on not less than 16 different streets, four of which cut the city map diagonally and debouched at their end on a smaller site. Each of the seven squares allow further enhance public buildings: Cathedral Place Royale, the governor’s palace on the Place d’Armes, hospital, school, market...”
The structure would have broken the cities pre-existing grid and created social spaces for the residents through the planned Colosseum and Vauxhall (1). The plan would have elements incorporated from major world cities of the time such as London, Paris, and Washington. Large squares dedicated to Christopher Columbus would have been surrounded by warehouses and customs offices.
The entire effort fell through after the land was annexed by the US (along with the West Florida States) in 1810 coupled with the death of Beauregard in 1809. Very few building had been constructed and all that remains today is the beginnings of the street grid in the form of the downtown’s historic Beauregard Town neighborhood.
After seeing this plan, I personally can not stop wondering what Baton Rouge would have been like today if things were constructed. Obviously the loss of Spain would have made it hard for the city to become a crucial point, but maybe it could have served (as it does today) as an alternative port to New Orleans. In the end we will never know what might have been America’s Paris.
That’s all for today folks! I’m thinking about going downtown today so maybe a picture post is in our future! Have a nice day and thanks for joining the revolution.
1. Vauxhall – Popular in Europe at the time, they were gardens adorned with decorations. The public could attend live shows, live music, or play games outside.
I found another picture of the map with the major buildings of the city in 1806 worked into the proposed plan: