Louisiana is an old part of the United States, with territory passed between differing cultures and people. It’s also in a part of the nation where the land meets the water, and the civil meets the wild. With such a diverse landscape and culture, it’s no surprise the boot state makes for some fun facts. Here are 15 of the most fascinating.
Being 450 feet tall with 34 floors, Louisiana has the tallest state capital in the United States.
It is the only state in the U.S. that does not have counties. Instead it uses the term parishes based off the Catholic Church parishes instead of secular government.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, connecting New Orleans to Mandeville, is the longest bridge over water in the world. It is 24 miles long.
In 1803, the U.S. purchased the Louisiana territory for $15 million. The area included 828,000 square-feet of land on the west side of the Mississippi River going all the way from the modern-day boundaries of the state and up through North Dakota to Canada. It nearly doubled the size of the nation at that point in time, including 13 new states that were carved from the territory. That is only about three cents per acre!
The streets car lines that run in New Orleans are truly historic. The Saint Charles line is one of two mobile national historic monuments. The other is the trolley in San Francisco. The New Orleans and Carrollton lines are the oldest street railway lines still in operation.
The historic Treme neighborhood in New Orleans was one of the first places free people of color were able to purchase and own property in the United States. There are hundreds of examples from the 18th and 19th centuries, a time when slavery of colored peoples was rampant in the nation, where they were able to acquire, purchase and own their personal land. This is only documented as happening in New Orleans in this era.
Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. whose legal system is based off that of the Civil Code established by the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804. In 1812, four years from Louisiana became a state, the French and Spanish colony adapted a portion of these codes that are known today as the “Napoleonic Code,” which have a more direct interpretation of the law when compared to the other 49 states.
Much of the southern part of Louisiana is below sea-level. The lowest point in the state is New Orleans at eight feet below sea level, while the highest point is Driskill Mountain at 535 feet.
Declared a state holiday in 1875, this time of year has roots that can be traced back to Europe in the 18th century. Everywhere in the state celebrates and school does not happen. It is a celebration that is supposed to last from Twelfth Night, 12 days after Christmas, all the way until Fat Tuesday, which is the day before lent. It is a true state party before fasting for the 40-day Catholic Lent begins.
Louisiana is the only home of the Cajun peoples who came down from the New Brunswick area, the old French Acadian territory in the 17th century. Most moved during as well as after the French and Indian War, when the British banned their return to their homes. By the 1800s there were over 4,000 Acadians in south Louisiana mostly settling west of New Orleans. Today, they are referred to as Cajuns and their culture is prominent across the entire state.
New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz. Though many, such as pianist Jelly Roll Morton, claim to be the soul inventors of America’s music no one really credits one person for its birth. Instead, most historians refer to the 19th century as well as Treme and Storyville neighborhoods. It is an art form whose origins go back to the times of Congo Square, the first-place African slaves were allowed to congregate and play music as a group. From there, the African rhythms combined with the military style marching tunes and the piano sounds of the brothels from New Orleans’s Storyville district. All these factors came together to birth jazz.
Known for parading into stadiums across the nation with their purple and gold, the Louisiana State University Fighting Tigers didn’t choose these colors at their beginning. Though several stories float around to the exact reason of the change, the original school colors were blue and white. They were changed to fit the colors of Mardi Gras, purple, gold and green, thinking it would be more emblematic of the state.
This is the largest steel-constructed room unobstructed by posts in the world. Home of the New Orleans Saints, the Superdome is 273 feet tall with over 400 miles of wiring, a 680-foot in diameter dome, and 269,000 square feet of inside space!
This is the largest river basin in the nation with over one million acres of bottomland hardwood forest, swamps, black water lakes, and bayous. It stretches for 140 miles from around Simmesport, Louisiana, to all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Jazz was not the only style of music to be birthed in Louisiana. The Acadians brought their own French musical style to the bottom of the state around the same time many black creoles were also looking for their own home and the French colonists sang their traditional melodies. Cajun music, which typically involves the accordion, and zydeco that has more involvement with the violin are often mixed together though there are some big differences. Zydeco has much more roots in blues, R&B, and Native American singing, while Cajun music has more roots in the ballads of the French and Acadian people. The Louisiana city of Mamou is known as the Cajun Music Capital of the World.