March 18, 2002 - Long's White House

Sneaky politics, a secret call to the state prison, and a demolition job on the "QT" -- that's how Louisiana got a new governor's mansion in 1930. The home which still stands on North Boulevard is Huey Long's dream house.

A lot of folks didn't want it built at all. They said the old governor's mansion, a pre-Civil-War home, was good enough. "Well, it represented the past to Huey, and as you know, he was forward thinking and a visionary." That's how docent Barbara Somner explains why the colorful governor wanted a new home.

When they asked what he wanted his new house to look like, the King Fish pulled out a $20 bill and pointed to the engraving of the White House on the back -- and why not? He was already planning to move into the nation's Executive Mansion. He had already penned a book entitled "My First Days in the White House." But the legislature would not give him the money he needed to tear down the old Governor's Mansion.

He had a solution. Back in those days the state penitentiary was still at 7th and Laurel Streets. Huey called the warden at home and said, "Send me over some prisoners. I've got a job for them." Barbara Somner picks up the story: "Huey had them brought to the State Capitol on the river and marched them to the old Governor's Mansion at the time, and the home was torn down, free of charge because he didn't have to appropriate funds for the inmates, within a day's time."

The next day, Huey showed the lawmakers his vacant lot and said, in effect, "Now where's the governor going to live?" He got his Louisiana White House. It cost $150,000. Huey Long was the first of 12 governors to live in his mansion. The last was Jimmy Davis, who built the current Governor's Mansion in 1962. Unlike Huey Long, Jimmy Davis left the old mansion standing, and it's open for tours Tuesday through Friday.