Sunday, May 20, 2007

Final day in Baton Rouge and a visit to LSU

Downtown Baton Rouge from the top of the State Capitol

After touring the Louisiana State Capitol building we set out to see the old one which was located nearby in downtown Baton Rouge. This structure, known as "the old gray castle", served as the seat of government from 1852 until 1932 and is considered one of the most distinguished examples of Gothic architecture in the United States.

Original Louisiana State House (1852 - 1932)

The building was not without its critics as Mark Twain, the riverboat captain, wrote about seeing it from the wheel house of his steamboat while passing by on the Mississippi River, "It is pathetic that a whitewashed castle, with turrets and things should ever have been built in this otherwise honorable place." I think if Twain had lived to see the towering colossus that took its place the old building would seem quaintly austere and restrained by comparison.

Stained glass dome of the Old Capitol

Spiral staircase in the center---very Gothic indeed!

Our next stop was the campus of Louisiana State University, known to everyone in the South as LSU. This gigantic school is a member of a fervently ritualistic religious cult, that I am a branch member of, known as the Southeastern Football Conference (SEC). Throughout the Deep South each Saturday in the fall gaudy and determined gladiatorial battles are staged in vast arenas where the honor and pride of whole regions is determined in hard fought combat on the gridiron. LSU is one of the founding members of this league and its fans are some of the most dedicated and fanatical in all of sports.

The most outward manifestation of this fanaticism is the large enclosure, built next to the stadium, that houses their team mascot Mike the Tiger. This hallowed compound is a landscaped replica of native tiger habitat with a stream of running water, rocky outcrops and miniature jungle. This particular Mike was the fifth to be the official mascot in a line of tigers stretching back to 1936. It seemed to be one of the most visited places in Baton Rouge and a spot of much reverence and curiosity from visiting pilgrims.

Mike V sleeps the afternoon away.

Outside Mike's compound

Be part of a legacy!

Another interesting sight on the campus are two ancient mounds located across from the Huey P. Long Field House. According to the official campus guide book, "Archaeologists believe the Indian mounds were built more than 5,000 years ago, before the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. Scientists also believe Native Americans constructed the mounds for ceremonial or religious purposes, not for shelter or burial sites. The exact purposes remain a mystery as researchers do not want to risk damaging the mounds with further testing or digging."

LSU Indian Mounds

There are also five lakes on campus that teem with all kinds of wild critters including: ducks, geese, egrets, turtles, fish and white pelicans. It's Louisiana ain't it?

A large turtle heads back into an LSU lake after a stroll near the dorms.

On a sad note Mike V died this past Friday from old age. He had served as the official LSU mascot since 1990. The search is on for Mike VI.


Audie said...

That stained-glass dome is sick!

Devastatin' Dave said...

Geaux Tigers!!!