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Journeys of Discovery: Mark Twain called Louisiana's capitol “the ugliest thing on the Mississippi”

Mark Twain was reputed to say that Louisiana’s state capitolwas “the ugliest thing on the Mississippi.” Maybe it’s a matter of time and distance, but today lots of people think the former capitol building in Baton Rouge is extraordinarily enchanting, with powerful neo-Gothic medieval castle motifs accented with twin crenellated turrets.

This show was originally broadcast May 9, 2019 and is reposted as a “best-of-the-best” podcast in celebration of Journeys of Discovery’s 30th anniversary producing on-air and digital media podcasts featured on KCBX and NPR One.

The state government eventually outgrew the old capitol, and under the guidance of Governor Huey Long, legislators moved in to a new building in 1932.


Today the former state capitol building is a national historic landmark and functions as Louisiana’s official museum of political history. Correspondent Tom Wilmer visits with Mary Durusau, museum division director with the Louisiana Office of the Secretary of State.


Adjacent to the old capitol, berthed on the Mississippi River, is the naval destroyer USS Kiddwhich saw heavy action in World War II. In 1982 she was towed to Baton Rouge, where the Kidd now serves as a living memorial open to the public—the only surviving World War II U.S. naval destroyer that was never modernized and retains its circa-1945 appearance and armament. The USS Kidd has a starring role in the movie Greyhound released in 2020.


You are invited to subscribe to the Lowell Thomas Award-winning travel show podcast, Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, featured on the NPR Podcast DirectoryApple PodcastiHeartRadio, the NPR One App & Stitcher.com. Twitter: TomCWilmer. Instagram: Thomas.Wilmer. Member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Underwriting support provided by Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, and the Society of St. Vincent De Paul.

Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.
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