History of Baton Rouge
It is believed that the Baton Rouge area was inhabited by indigenous peoples in 8000 BC. There are three Native American mounds in the city proper, built probably in 4500 BC. The first European contact with the area was probably in 1699, when a French explorer Sieur D’Iberville, travelling along the Mississippi River, found a red pole covered in animal blood that served as a boundary marker between the territories of Houma and Bayou Goula tribes. He called the area “le baton rouge” after the red pole or stick, and the name remained. The Indians called the area “Istrouma.”
The first settlement in the Baton Rouge area was a French military posto built in 1719. At the time, the real agricultural and economic center of French colonies in Louisiana was New Orleans. After the French, Baton Rouge was governed by the Great Britain, Spain, Louisiana, Florida, the Confederate States and, finally, the United States.
Many French settlers from Canada came down to Louisiana after they were chased away by the British in 1755. They became known as “Cajuns” and their culture was extraordinarily important for the entire region, including Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge was incorporated in 1819 and it became the capital of Louisiana in 1849. The city grew and developed in the first half of the 19th century, mainly thanks to the steamboat transportation along the Mississippi.
By the time the American Civil War started in 1816, Baton Rouge had 5,500 inhabitants. The city economy came to a halt due to the war activities, especially after it was occupied by the Union troops in 1862. At the time, the Confederates moved the state government to other places, such as Shreveport. Throughout the war, and especially in 1862, the Confederate troops tried to regain control over Baton Rouge, but to no success. After the war, the Reconstruction-era state government was headquartered in Baton Rouge and later, in 1882, the Bourbon Democrats moved the state government back to Baton Rouge, this time permanently.
In the 20th century, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, Baton Rouge became a center of petrochemical industry, its economy was in constant growth and today it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the USA. The city received an unprecedented population boom in 2005, after accepting 200,000 new residents who lost their homes elsewhere due to Hurricane Katrina.
Baton Rouge Geography and Climate
Baton Rouge is the third-southernmost US capital. It lies on the Mississippi River and occupies a land area of 76.8 square miles, while 2.2 square miles are water. It has a humid subtropical climate, with long, hot and humid summers, mild winters and plenty of rainfall year round. Baton Rouge is prone to extreme weather events, especially damaging winds, tornadoes and hurricanes. The worst hurricane to hit the Baton Rouge area was Hurricane Gustav in 2008.
As of 2010, the racial makeup in Baton Rouge was 50.02% Black or African American, 45.7% White, 2.62% Asian, 1.71% Hispanic or Latino, 0.18% Native American and 0.03% Pacific Islander. The median household income in 2010 was $30,368 and the per capita income was $18,512.
Baton Rouge Economy
Baton Rouge has a strong and fast-growing economy. The city port plays an important role for the local and state economy but the single most important industry in the city is petrochemical production, with companies such as ExxonMobil, Albemarle and Dow Chemical Company.
In addition to these sectors and, obviously, to the state government, other large employers are health care and research (especially the Our Lady of the Lake research hospital), education (Louisiana State University), as well as the growing film industry (Celtic Media Center studios).
Culturally, Baton Rouge is a mix of Cajun and Creole Catholics and Southern Baptists. Its cultural spectre is a typically Southern one. The city is open for new tendencies and has a vibrant visual arts and theatre scene, with institutions such as Shaw Center for the Arts, Louisiana Art and Science Museum, Baton Rouge Gallery, Baton Rouge River Center, Opera Louisiane, Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre and Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra. Major cultural events in the city include Mardi Gras, Louisiana Earth Day, St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Red Stick International Animation Festival.
The most interesting tourist attractions in Baton Rouge include Louisiana State Capitol, plantation homes such as Myrtles Plantation and Magnolia Mound Plantation House, as well as architecturally important structures such as the Louisiana State University, Louisiana State Library, Louisiana Naval Museum and many more.
The tallest buildings in Baton Rouge are Louisiana State Capitol, One American Place, JPMorgan Chase Tower, Riverside Tower North and Marriott Hotel.
The best and the largest university in Baton Rouge is the Louisiana State. Other institutions of post-secondary education include Our Lady of the Lake College, Southern University and A&M College, Virginia College and Baton Rouge Community College.
Interstate highways in the Baton Rouge area include I-10, I-12 and I-110. There are also two U.S. routes - U.S. 61 and U.S. 190. Major bridges include Huey Long Bridge and Horace Wilkinson bridge.
The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport provides non-stop service to various cities, including Dallas, Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte.
Urban mass transit is provided by Capital Area Transit System. Greyhound Bus Lines offers bus connections to cities across the USA and LA Swift provides regular buses to and from New Orleans.
Baton Rouge does not have a major professional sports franchise but it is big in college sports, with teams such as the LSU Tigers (football and baseball) and Southern University Jaguars (football, baseball and basketball).