Case 9: The Businesses of Baton Rouge
When the Marquis de Lafayette visited Baton Rouge in 1825, the only place large enough to hold a reception for him was Madame Legendre's two-story inn on the corner of Florida and Fourth Streets. After his visit, Second Street was renamed Lafayette Street and one of the oldest remaining buildings, the former law office of Judge Charles Tessier (served 1815-1845), was named the Lafayette Building. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1978.
In the 1830s Baton Rouge boasted ten mercantile establishments in addition to several branches of New Orleans' banks and four hotels. A state penitentiary was established in town. The warden's house on the corner of Seventh and Laurel Streets is one of the few antebellum buildings still remaining in Baton Rouge. The Harney House was built in the 1840s on Lafayette Street to accommodate the legislators. Then, as now, Baton Rouge had an abundance of attorneys.
The City Market was constructed in 1859 between St. Louis and St. Ferdinand Streets, where the original building stood until 1954. In 1869 the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning came to Baton Rouge. Although not large then, LSU is now one of Baton Rouge's largest enterprises.
In the 1890s Third Street, Main Street, and Lafayette Street were the center of business. The Verandah Hotel and Saloon, the Reymond Store, Wong Bing's Chinese Laundry, the White Elephant Saloon, and the offices of the local newspaper, the Advocate,could be found in that area. In 1900 forty-four cane growers and sugar manufacturers gave their mailing address as Baton Rouge.
The Standard Oil Refinery came to Baton Rouge in 1909 when Standard Oil Company wanted an "economical outlet" for their crude production. The company changed Baton Rouge's economic basis from agriculture to industry, and the town prospered. In 1910 Standard employed 700 people. Seventy-two years later it employed 3,000. Although Baton Rougeans believed the oil industry to be "recession-proof, " the 1980s saw a drop in the value of oil that caused much economic suffering.
Since the 1980s Baton Rouge's economy has diversified significantly, adding hundreds of service industries (including two casinos) and businesses. The federal government has established a postal processing center here. Health-related complexes, including the Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and Woman's Hospital, have grown to employ hundreds of workers. While some businesses, such as the United Companies, have suffered recent setbacks, Baton Rouge is still the home of numerous corporate headquarters.