Today in 1929, the start of one of the more outlandish stories in American political history: the story of the Old Governor’s Mansion in Louisiana, which in a lot of ways is a dead ringer for the White House in Washington DC.
Today there are actually quite a few White House replicas; some are in the U.S., and some are in other countries.
There’s even one in Wisconsin that’s upside down.
The one in Louisiana was the work of then-governor Huey Long, who in the 1920s won the governor’s office by promising to be the champion of the working class against the wealthy.
But he also wanted a new official residence; he claimed that the old one was run-down and full of rats and termites.
Though not everyone was convinced that was true, Long was able to get $150,000 to tear down the old house and put in a new one.
He didn’t want just any house, though; he wanted a virtual replica of the White House.
Long had made no secret of which job he wanted after being governor.
He reportedly said he wanted to get used to living in the White House before he got elected president.
Long made the interior as ornate and elaborate as possible.
Some of the rooms looked more like those from royal palaces than from a president’s or governor’s house.
Many Louisiana politicians were aghast at the house, and because the governor had used prisoners to tear down the old mansion.
They actually tried, unsuccessfully, to impeach Long over his Louisiana White House.
Long would eventually get to Washington, but as a Senator; he never moved to the actual White House.
But another Long did end up at the Louisiana White House.
Huey’s younger brother Earl would also serve as governor, and it’s said he celebrated his last night in the mansion by throwing a party with burlesque dancers.
By the time Governor Jimmy Davis, who let his horse live inside the Louisiana White House, was in office, Louisiana decided to build a new governor’s house.
But the old one is still standing and it’s open to tours.
If those walls could talk, right?
Drummers and percussionists, meet the Flairdrum.
The key ingredient in this rhythmic cocktail: recycled plastic drink bottles, which are inflated with different levels of pressure to create different notes.
I was surprised that it sounded like a marimba or a steel drum.
The players get some lovely tones out of those old bottles.
Old Louisiana Governor’s Mansion (National Park Service)