With my business in New Orleans complete, I set my sights on the next welcome sign. Baton Rouge, an easy 80-mile drive to the northwest, was a natural stopping point in my new quest to photograph welcome signs for U.S. state capitals.
Baton Rouge comes from the French and literally means “red stick”. Records from French explorer Sieur d’Iberville describe large wooden cypress poles topped with heads of sacrificed (bloody) animals and fish that served as the boundaries for native lands when he arrived in the area in 1699. Generally the red stick settlements referred to areas inhabited by natives that were hostile to the explorers; white stick (baton blanc) settlements were peaceful.
The red stick landmarks no longer exist, and today’s welcome to Baton Rogue is much more subdued. The sign (below) is situated at the intersection of Sally Ride Drive and Veterans Memorial Boulevard at the exit to Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.
On the far left is the Louisiana state capitol building, distinctive because it is the tallest in the U.S. On the far right is the Horace Wilkinson Bridge that carries Interstate 10 across the Mississippi River and connects Baton Rouge with Port Allen, La. The area in between includes other structures that make up the skyline of Baton Rouge.
The one thing that seems out of place on the sign is the widebody aircraft. The commercial passenger airlines serving Baton Route Metropolitan Airport today do not operate four-engine planes, but I guess it’s always good to prepared for future upgrades in service… then the sign won’t have to be changed!
After locating the sign, I took a quick trip to downtown Baton Rouge to photograph the unique capitol building. Along the way I thought I might catch a glimpse of another welcome sign – I’ve learned from experience that airport signs may not be the only welcome to a city. But the main road leading from the airport to downtown – ironically named Scenic Highway – only offered views of manufacturing activities by Lion Copolymer (synthetic rubber) and Exxon Mobil (petrochemicals and refinery). Scenic was the last word that I would use to describe the drive to downtown Baton Rouge, and I did not find another welcome sign.
Constructed in the early 1930s, its 34 stories make the Louisiana capitol the tallest building in Baton Rouge. It is an impressive structure, and I was glad that I had taken the time to visit.
The exterior of the building included numerous details, but the one I liked the best was the carving of a pelican, Louisiana’s state bird and one of the state’s most well-known symbols.
I probably only spent one hour in Baton Rouge, just enough time to take my photos. This was certainly not enough time to explore one of the fastest growing metro areas in the U.S., but my next welcome sign was just hours away, and I had to get on the road to continue my photographic journey… My trip report will continue throughout this week.