Suzanne Turner Associates

Old State Capitol

In 2007, Reed-Hilderbrand Landscape Architects of Cambridge, MA, hired STA to serve as landscape historian for work leading to the development of a preservation master plan for Louisiana’s first state house, c.1850. Archival research and a survey of historical photographs and plans served as the basis for a timeline describing the evolution of this important civic space. The study documented that the first improvements dated from 1854, when a newspaper reported that “…if the ground be enclosed and adorned with shade-trees and gravel walks, there is not a more lovely spot in Louisiana” (The Daily Comet). The Committee on Public Buildings of the legislature stated at the same time that the grounds would be contained “with a suitable Iron fence, with a brick foundation capped with granite; that the grounds be properly graded and planted with shrubs and trees…;” and the sidewalks around the square of the building paved with brick laid in cement with stone curbing; and the inside walks from the gates to the building covered with shells laid in cement.

Over the course of the past quarter century, the important architectural structure has been restored and the building now serves as a museum of the political history of Louisiana. But despite its rich and storied history, the landscape has slowly lost most of its tree canopy and ornamental plantings over the course of the past century and a half, and today the cast iron fence is the most visible survivor of the original landscape. A first phase of master planning for the site has been funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. STA is continuing to serve as a member of the team working towards a fully-developed plan.