Heart of Louisiana: Louisiana's White House

Baton Rouge, La. -- The similarities between this Louisiana mansion and another famous American home are no accident.  It's called Louisiana's little White House.  It was built in the state's capital city and it has a rose garden and a large east room.  There's even an oval office with a view of the capitol.  And the dining room wallpaper was copied by Jackie Kennedy for the diplomatic reception room at the White House.

The Louisiana White House, the old Governor's Mansion, was built in 1929 by Huey Long.

Carolyn Bennett with the Foundation For Historical Louisiana says, "Rumor has it he wanted to know where the light switches were when he got to Washington and the lay of the land, so it's been said that he slapped a twenty dollar bill on the architect's desk and said build me something that looks like that, and of course that is the White House in Washington, D.C."

"Everything in this room is original except for the drapes," says Ory Poret, who now volunteers and gives guided tours of the old Governor's Mansion.  At age 93, Poret knows a lot about some of the governors who lived here -- he worked for them as head of the State Land Office.

Poret says, "When I first started working for the state, Jimmie Davis was governor.  Then Earl Long became governor after that. Then Bob Kennan in 1952. Then after Kennan, it was Earl Long again and then Jimmie Davis from 60 to 64."

The master bedroom is filled with furniture from Huey Long.  And when brother Earl Long was governor, his wife set up her own private bedroom down the hall.

Poret says, "When Earl was governor the last time, he started having, some would call it, emotional problems."

And Poret's favorite is the Jimmie Davis room, complete with the former governor's saddle, perhaps the one he used when he rode his horse Sunshine into the governor's office.

Poret says, "I assume people thought it was a little unusual, but a governor can do a lot of things."

Although the Governor's Mansion was built in a grand scale, it had a very short lifespan. It was only used as a home for Louisiana governors for 34 years.

In 1963, Jimmie Davis decided to build a new air conditioned mansion near the State Capitol.  The Foundation For Historic Louisiana now maintains a museum in the old mansion, with original furnishings from the governors and their families, and some of the unique treasures of our state's political past.

The old Governor's Mansion is open for guided tours Tuesday through Friday.  And if you're lucky, Ory Poret will be your guide.