SECRET WORLDS

Strippers, Insane Asylums, Assassination, and Termites: Inside the Insane History of the World’s Greatest White House Replica

Governor Huey Long was so anxious to get to the White House that he built his own in Baton Rouge. An assassin’s bullet cut short Long’s ambitions, but his gaudy knock-off survives.

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana—On March 7, 1929, the Louisiana governor’s mansion here was rendered to nothing more than a nub of a foundation in the dirt.

A building that had embodied the state’s class and elegance for its aghast city elites, it was reduced to its ignominious condition by convicts from the state prison on orders of the grandiloquent new governor—Huey P. Long. Plundered of its riches (whereabouts still unknown), it was replaced by one of the greatest pieces of Ozymandian architecture in U.S. history.

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Long’s mansion has stood empty for more than half a century—the last governor moved out in 1963. But this physical embodiment of hubris, this temple of over-the-top excess, still draws crowds. People can’t stop snooping in it and talking about it even now, much as they can’t stop debating the pros and cons of the politician who commissioned the edifice in the first place. The subject of biographers too numerous to count, one Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, and even songwriter Randy Newman, Long is to this day acclaimed and reviled, sometimes even by the same people, with the same fervor he inspired almost a century ago. When it comes to Huey Long, the jury will always be out.

The mansion, on the other hand, is less a subject of debate and more an object of awe. Or just plain old disbelief. Even today it’s hard to reckon with the unguarded, unzipped—hell, unhinged—ambition embodied in the mansion ordered up by the Kingfish. You can roll your eyes, you can snort with derision, but the one thing you cannot do when you drive out North Boulevard and stare at the mansion on the hill is turn away. You can’t stop staring—and oh how Huey would love that! Because no one loved attention more, or did more to get it.

Why else would you design the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to look exactly like the White House?

There are a number of White House replicas around the world. Suburban D.C. has at least three. Two are found in McLean, Virginia: one of them being 14,000 square feet and built by a Vietnamese immigrant owner who wanted an architectural “thank you” to the U.S., and the second is visible to all gawkers driving on Georgetown Pike and a stone’s throw from the estate of former longtime Saudi Arabia Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan. The third can be found in Haymarket, Virginia, and is an architectural manifestation of a hot mess. Atlanta has one, too, featuring a copy of the Oval Office from the George W. Bush era. In Houston, former governor and oilman Ross Sterling built a limestone replica on the water in 1927 with 34 rooms inside a total of 20,689 square feet, which sold for $2.8 million this year. Dallas has a monstrosity replete with one of those weirdly ornate kitchens with overdone boiserie found in modern American McMansions. Those without taste are not limited to the U.S., as oligarchs in Iraq and China, among others, have built their own versions of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Nonetheless, Long’s White House replica eclipses them all for sheer audacity and lubricious detail. And make no mistake, it was a replica of the White House. Were it not abundantly clear while standing in front of it, contemporary accounts make the connection explicit. The Times-Picayune and other outlets called it the “Louisiana White House” and his contemporary biographer Forrest Davis quotes Long as saying about the building’s look, “I want to be used to the White House when I get there.” (New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling tells a different version, wherein Huey “wanted a replica of the White House so he would know where the light switches were in the bathrooms when he got to be president.”) Since a restoration completed in 1999, the mansion is managed by Preserve Louisiana, and has been open to the public for an entertaining (it is Louisiana politics, after all) and essential tour.

There has been so much written in the past year and a half about Huey Long, and stories about him are like going to a Pizza Hut lunchtime buffet as a kid—endless, tasty, but if you actually step back and think about them, it makes you gag. But to understand how a sitting governor of an impoverished state in the throes of the Great Depression built a White House replica you need to understand Long and read some of those stories.

After all, this is a man who wrote what was essentially 146 pages of White House fanfiction titled My First Days in the White House (published after he was assassinated in 1935) in the run-up to the 1936 election in which he: virtually calls FDR low-energy (“worn and tired”); puts down a rebellion; titles chapters Wherein the New President Encounters the Masters of Finance and Destiny and Wherein the Masters of Finance and Destiny Are Ours; nominates FDR as his secretary of the Navy, Hoover secretary of commerce, and Al Smith budget director; imagines conversations with each one, such as him telling FDR, “I only offered you a position which I thought you were qualified to fill,” and another where the text reads, “‘Huey, you amaze me,’ [Smith] ejaculated”; to Long musing to himself as he watches happy crowds at the inauguration, “Could other presidents have had such confident throngs as these?”

A governor building a mansion similar to the White House is not so shocking when you understand that the man who did it opened his autobiography Every Man a King by claiming inspiration from Cellini, the 16th-century sculptor whose autobiography is generally considered the greatest ego trip in history, and Mazarin, the cardinal who largely ruled France during the youth of Louis XIV. Long was dubbed by Davis as “the most dangerous man in America” and “Der Furore of the Delta.”

Or perhaps nothing captures the ego of the man as well as how one day, while visiting New York City, standing in the shadow of the 102-story Empire State Building, Long bragged to those around him about the new state capitol he had built that stood 34 stories tall.

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Long was born in Winn Parish, Louisiana, in 1893, a year in which the U.S. was sunk in an economic depressions while the state battled floods, drought, and a hurricane. The seventh child of nine, Long loved to wax about his humble beginnings; however, when he was 7 the railroad came to town and transformed it—as well as the fortunes of his family, which owned a lot of the land. While Long was not wealthy, his siblings would gripe in later years about how he exaggerated their economic situation. In The Story of Huey P. Long, historian Carleton Beals places Long within the contrarian political tradition of upstate Winn Parish, which had backed some of America’s most colorful populists, including William Jennings Bryan, Carrie Nation, Eugene Debs, and Bill Haywood.

Huey spent his late teens and early twenties on the move—working as a traveling salesman, attending a handful of different universities, passing the bar after only a year of law school. He eventually opened a law practice in Shreveport, where he made a name for himself by suing corporations. He was married in 1913 and had three children, one of whom, Russell, spent nearly three decades in the U.S. Senate. Huey himself began his meteoric rise in 1918 when at 25 he won election to the state railroad commission after running on a platform that attacked Standard Oil and utility companies. He ran for governor in 1924 and lost. Four years later, again working from a populist playbook that set the working classes against the incumbent elites downstate (in Long’s lexicon, “New Orleans” was always shorthand for inherited wealth and Catholicism), he won the general election with an astonishing 96.1 percent of the vote.

It is hard to capture just how quickly and absolutely Long consolidated power upon taking office. Described by the mayor of New Orleans as “Caligula, Attila, Henry VIII, and Louis XIV” rolled into one, he turned the state police into a personal army enforcing his version of martial law. “I used to get things done by saying ‘please’,” he once claimed. “That didn’t work and now I’m a dynamiter. I dynamite ’em out of my path.”

He cleaned out government agencies and commissions and packed those sinecures with loyalists. In his first year in office he threatened to withhold the state’s payments on an existing loan if the state’s bankers didn’t issue new ones. He detached the National Guard to break up gambling and nightclubs, and to resolve political disputes. He pushed for a severance tax on Standard Oil.

When one state senator was overruled by Long during a committee debate, the senator threw a book at Long’s head and shouted, “Maybe you’ve heard of this book. It’s the Constitution of the State of Louisiana.” Long shot back, “I’m the Constitution around here now.”

In 1929 everything came to a boil. After his severance tax was defeated in court, Long pushed for an occupation tax targeting Standard Oil—he wanted to use the revenue to pay for his plan to give free textbooks to the state’s schoolchildren. The legislature erupted, and introduced 19 counts of impeachment against Long, one of which accused him of “demolishing the Executive Mansion without express legislative authority and spending $150,000 for a new mansion; disposing of and destroying furniture in the Executive Mansion without authorization or accounting.”

The executive mansion whose destruction so irked Long’s opponents had been built in 1857 by the Knoxes, “a leading Baton Rouge family” according to the State Times. It was purchased by the state in 1887 for use by the governor. On the eve of its demise, this typical but unremarkable plantation-style house received a fulsome eulogy extolling it as “one of the most beautiful and stately homes in the city, while its broad galleries and spacious halls radiated an air of cheerfulness and hospitality.” The March 1, 1929, story in the State Times rolled on breathlessly: “So the old home that has graced North Boulevard for almost three-quarters of a century is being torn apart. Its walls hold many a secret of state, its fine old mirrors have reflected joys and sorrows … its stately columns and broad verandahs, the flowering japonicas and the broad sweep of lawn have given it personality and distinction among other homes of Baton Rouge. Thousands of visitors have driven out the Boulevard to have pointed out to them the home of their governor.”

Nothing could have been further from what Huey saw when he moved in.

Tenant Complaints

“When we moved into the Mansion, the old structure was in such condition that living in it comfortably was practically impossible,” wrote Long in Every Man a King. “Rats and other vermin ran through the building unrestrained. Half the windows could neither be raised nor lowered. Termites had destroyed the lower sills.” In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Long, T. Harry Williams adds that the Kingfish claimed, “There were too many clocks in the place. They kept me awake. You know how it is. I tried to make ’em all strike together. Then the rats would get into ’em and I’d lie awake listening to ’em.”

Whether Huey genuinely wanted to be able to sleep in the mansion or just wanted a fancy new one remains an open question—a number of historians point out that before and after construction on the new mansion, Huey spent most of his time living in hotels. But what mattered was that Long wanted a new mansion. So he brought a building inspector to the old mansion, and the inspector duly concluded that the house was “dilapidated” and would need to be gut renovated. That was all Huey needed, and so he went to the state Board of Liquidators and got approval for $150,000 for a new governor’s mansion.

But first the legislature had to approve the destruction of the old mansion. Long, writes Williams, knew his opponents would block the new mansion to spite him. So he didn’t wait for the legislature to come back during its winter recess, and instead got “approval” via mail.

“Governor Long announced today that with one-third of the members of the Legislature yet to be heard from, all six of the propositions recently submitted to the members by the state board of liquidation had carried by majorities of the elected members in each house,” bleated the Times-Picayune, which opposed Long at every turn. With what he considered a legitimate majority, Long went ahead with the destruction.

"It reminds me of the old man who keeps a boarding house,” Long retorted, when confronted with the criticism that the house was good enough for the state’s aristocratic governors. “When one guest complains that the towel is dirty, he says, 'people have been wiping on that towel for a month without complaining, I don't see what's the matter with you.’" And so Long was not content to merely flout the aristocratic society’s grip on social norms—he annihilated it in a way that would portend what was to come.

One night in March 1929, Long called up the warden of the “Alcatraz of the South,” Angola State Prison, and ordered him to send a number of convicts (reports range from 30 to 100) to Baton Rouge. Huey personally led the chain gang down from the Capitol to the mansion and watched them tear it down. “The job was done fast. The upper classes were horrified—the old house that had harbored great governors was gone and great traditions gone with it, torn down by jailbirds!” wrote Williams. The riches of the old mansion—the china, silverware, and antique furnishings—vanished. Later, reports historian Richard D. White in his recent biography Kingfish, the sergeant-at-arms of the House would testify that as far as the silver, it ended up engraved with “Huey P. Long” and was sent off to Shreveport.

Before these events, Long told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1931, the elites always demanded to know “who your mother’s brother’s cousin’s uncle’s aunt’s grandmother was. But that’s out. The barbarians are in now.”

It was a sign of how ruthless he would be.

Long summoned every scrap of that ruthlessness to fend off impeachment. Through backroom deals, parliamentary maneuvering, threats (he was accused of ordering a hit on a member of the Legislature), and chicanery (when one of Long’s cronies introduced a motion to adjourn, opposing lawmakers claimed their push buttons had been tampered with to change their votes), Long emerged victorious. He then set about crushing any opposition that remained. He also became obsessed with the idea that he was an assassination target.

“He had all the appurtenances of frightened tyranny,” wrote Carleton Beals in The Story of Huey P. Long. Whenever the Kingfish prepared to leave the hotel in Baton Rouge, he came down in an elevator full of armed men (Long himself was always armed) and brought out in a phalanx of men to the cars. Once in, he was driven with armed cars to the front and rear and “flanked by motorcycle cops.” The New Yorker wryly noted in a 1935 Talk of the Town story that when Long changed his regular hotel in New York City from the Waldorf to the New Yorker, he doubled his number of bodyguards and made them dress the same. “Sometimes,” it reported, “he would slip out on them and hide, and they’d have to scurry around and hunt for him.” They all slept in his suite.

White House Envy

After surviving the impeachment attempt, Long managed to take time out of his rapid strangling of Louisiana to oversee the construction of the new mansion now underway.

It would be generous to call Huey Long’s taste “eccentric.” Throughout his adult life, he required the constant help of sycophant-in-chief Seymour Weiss (manager of the Roosevelt Hotel) to rein in his terrible yet expensive sartorial decisions. (One ensemble nixed by Weiss involved a swallowtail coat, striped trousers, and a flaming red tie). At Hyde Park, his plaid suit and pink tie led FDR’s mother Sarah (not that she was the ultimate arbiter of taste—Hyde Park is suffocated by its Victorian clutter) to harrumph, “Who is that awful man?”

Unfortunately, Long was heavily involved in the construction of the mansion, which was designed by the architectural firm of Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth, and decorated by architect Leon C. Weiss’ wife, Caroline. While Weiss' daughter writes in her book Times Tapestry that Long told Weiss, “You stay out of my politics and I’ll stay out of your architecture,” that wasn’t exactly the case. According to T. Harry Williams, “[Long] spent a good deal of time at the site, spurring the foremen and workers on to greater efforts. He even went to the building late at night, accompanied by some friend he had aroused from bed, and grabbing a flashlight from an astonished watchman, he would go over the structure inch by inch to assure himself that all the specifications were being followed.”

Those specifications included a secret staircase from his office to the private residence so he could escape unwanted supplicants, and a master bathroom with only a stand-up shower because Long said he didn’t want to “bathe in his own filth” or, according to another account, because he claimed that any man with enough time for a bath has too much time on his hands. Long’s wife, Rose, on the other hand, was not involved. During its construction, she stayed in Shreveport, and later made New Orleans her home base. In all fairness to the mansion, the real culprit for Rose’s distance was likely Huey Long’s secretary, who was rumored to be his mistress. The giveaway might have been when he named her secretary of state for Louisiana and possibly had her ex-husband kidnapped and stashed on a remote island.

Nowhere is the mix of Long’s questionable taste and his reported hands-on approach to the mansion as readily apparent as in the East Room. Sporting crystal chandeliers, built-in pier glass mirrors with gilded frames, a red marble terrazzo floor, and damask and velvet drapes, the ballroom is dominated by walls painted a neon shade of booger green. Long loved the color green, and he wanted the room to be “Louis XVI-style,” which along with Louis XIV and XV, I’ve long seen as a heuristic for unimaginative straight men meaning “looks like a room in a palace.” The house as a whole has the feel of such a man’s idea of a well-appointed mansion, rather than being a fully realized one.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time described the house as having “all the newness of a model home development or a department store window.” In his book The Earl of Louisiana, A.J. Liebling described it as “a great reception room furnished like a suite in a four-star general’s house on an Army post, where the furniture comes out of quartermaster’s stores… a place in which boredom began in the first ten seconds … the ballroom smacked of Bachelor’s Hall, lacking the touch of a woman’s fastidious hand.”

The East Room is just one of the 22 rooms that make up the mansion, which fills out to roughly 30,000 square feet in total, according to Preserve Louisiana. By comparison, the White House is approximately 55,000 square feet and has 132 rooms. The governor’s mansion cost $150,000 to build, and an additional $22,000 was spent furnishing it. The three-story stuccoed white manse is fronted by four 30-feet-tall Corinthian columns. Inside the front door is a dramatic entrance hall with a black and white marble floor and a sensually curving staircase of Alabama marble and granite. To the left is the East Room, which also connects to the dining room, which was decorated with Zuber wallpaper showing scenes from around the Americas—but not Louisiana—and furnished with pieces from Chippendale and Duncan Phyfe. The East Room, the state dining room, and the oval shape of the entrance hall are the only real similarities between the White House interior and the inside of the Baton Rouge replica.

The luxuriousness of the new residence did not go unnoticed. Even in his autobiography, Long felt compelled to address it. He repeated a conversation he had with one critic, who challenged Long by saying, “The people never expected to see a governor live in such a palace.” Long, never bashful, claimed he responded, “That was because the people never expected to have such a wonderful governor.”

Upstairs there are seven bedrooms, each with a bathroom decorated with hand-painted tiles, as well as a sunroom and solarium (later glassed in) that at the time the mansion was built had unobstructed views of the Mississippi River. It was in the master bedroom that the St. Louis Times-Dispatch and Marquis Childs caught up with Long for one of the best in-person profiles of him ever recorded.

“He lies on a great bed with an orange cover to receive the interviewer,” Childs observed. “He is sprawled out, his collar unbuttoned, his belt unbuckled, his shoes off. He is wearing gray knickers and golf socks with a herringbone stripe … Governor Long never speaks in a normal conversational tone. He bellows, he roars, he shouts, he whispers confidentially, he grunts dismally. During the next two hours a procession of people passes in and out of the Governor’s bedroom. It is like a levee of state in the ancient manner of Louis XIV.”

The End of the Kingfish

By the time Childs caught up with Long, the governor’s career had gone national. In 1930, Long decided to run for the U.S. Senate, and beat the incumbent with 57.3 percent of the vote. But Long became a prisoner in his own state, unable to leave and take his Senate seat because his one-time ally and lieutenant governor, Paul Cyr, had turned into a bitter enemy because Long refused to pardon Thomas E. Dreher and Mrs. Ada Labouef in one of the decade’s more sensational murders. If Long left the state, Cyr would assume his seat and begin unwinding Long’s carefully crafted political kickback network. Long waited out the end of his term, and then hand-picked his friend Oscar K. Allen to succeed him as governor and become his puppet. Aptly named O.K. Allen, he was perfect for Long, as Allen was said to be willing to sign anything. One day, the joke went, a leaf blew in and he signed it.

In the first two years of the ’30s, Long managed to get $5 million appropriated for a new state capitol, designed by the same architects as the mansion. The previous capitol, which is also a must-see in Baton Rouge, is a Gothic Revival misadventure built in 1847 that Mark Twain once roasted as coming from too much reading of Sir Walter Scott.

In the midst of all this, Long was also up to his usual political antics. One Long family friend told Liebling that when a new hospital went up in Baton Rouge, some black politicians approached him about how there were no black nurses. “Huey said he’d fix it for them,” the friend recalled, “but they wouldn’t like his method. He went around to visit the hospital and pretended to be surprised when he found white nurses waiting on colored men. He blew high as a buzzard can fly, saying it wasn’t fit for white women to be so humiliated. It was the most racist talk you ever heard, but the result was he got the white nurses out and the colored nurses in, and they’ve had the jobs ever since.”

When Long finally took his seat in the Senate, he instantly became a lightning rod for his “Share Our Wealth” program, taking the Standard Oil recipe that worked so well for him back home and expanding it to include J.P. Morgan and other titans of finance and industry. He so infuriated his Senate colleagues that expulsion proceedings were commenced against him.

All the while, Long controlled Louisiana—he ordered bills shoved through the legislature, controlled the state’s 24,000 public employees, and through them most of the state’s businesses. He owned the state’s attorney general, as well as the state supreme court. Only politicians in New Orleans dared defy him, although that didn’t stop Long from using the state police force to intimidate some of them. Roosevelt even considered sending in troops to counter Long’s use of the state police as an army, but decided against it.

To be sure, Long was popular for a reason. He built highways, bridges, schools, hospitals, and secured free textbooks for Louisiana schoolchildren. Without pressure from Long, it is unlikely FDR would have pushed so far to the left.

Long had been a key supporter of FDR in the 1932 election, but thereafter turned on him. On Labor Day of 1935 in Oklahoma City, just a few months after boasting that “[Roosevelt’s] scared of me … I can outpromise him and he knows it,” Long declared he was running for president as a third-party candidate.

This wasn’t exactly news to those who had followed Long’s career. In 1930, when former President Calvin Coolidge swung through Louisiana, Huey asked him in front of the press, “Are the Hoovers good housekeepers?”

"I guess so," said the ex-president.

"Well," the governor went on, "when I was elected I found the governor's mansion in such rotten shape that I had to tear it down and build another. It started a hell of a row. I don't want to have to tear down the White House when I'm elected.”

Long reportedly confided to supporters that his third-party run would not win him the presidency in 1936, but it would prevent Roosevelt from reelection. Thus a Republican would be in power with the economy still wrecked, making 1940 ripe for the taking. “I’m going to abolish the Electoral College,” he crowed. “And I defy any sonofabitch to get me out under four terms.”

On Sunday September 8, 1935, just after 9 p.m., Long was shot in the state capitol. Surgeons racing from New Orleans to save Long’s life crashed their car and were delayed. An inexperienced doctor that Long had handpicked to run a local hospital botched the operation. Less than 48 hours later, the Kingfish was dead. His last words were: “God, don't let me die. I have so much to do.”

While conspiracy theories abounded in the aftermath of the assassination, the generally accepted version of events has it that Long was assassinated by retired Baton Rouge doctor Carl Weiss. Weiss’s father-in-law was a judge in the process of being gerrymandered by Long, who had also fired Weiss’s uncle-in-law from a high school, and accused the family of having “coffee blood.” The assassination happened as Long was returning to the governor’s office suite from a session of the Louisiana House. As Long was speaking to his secretary, Weiss came from behind a marble pillar and shot Huey in the chest. Long’s bodyguards then opened fire on Weiss, riddling his body with at least 30 bullets as Huey fled the scene.

Crazy Tenants

The mansion’s story does not end with Long’s assassination. In fact, depending on which historian you consult, Huey may not even have been the mansion’s most interesting occupant.

Earl Long was Huey’s younger brother, and their relationship was tempestuous. But Earl, along with Huey’s son Russell, the U.S. senator, would extend and, at least in Earl’s case, enliven the family’s political dynasty. Less dangerous than Huey, Earl was surely more colorful—he was institutionalized while governor, allegedly tried to kill his wife, and in his last night as governor reportedly threw a party for strippers at the mansion.

Not for nothing did he end up being the focus of Liebling’s must-read book The Earl of Louisiana, which begins with one of the greatest first sentences anywhere: “Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly.”

Earl’s daily routine was quirky, noted Liebling. “When he gets the papers in the morning, he tears them open and goes straight to the hog quotations and the racing charts … After he makes his bets, the day’s business can begin. First item is to turn to the supermarket ads. If he sees something in the ads that the price is right, he buys it regardless if he needs it at the moment or not.” On hot Louisiana summer days, he would cool himself off by wiping his face with a handkerchief dipped in iced Coca-Cola.

Earl went from colorful to infamous in 1959 in one of the most extraordinary events in American political history when his wife had him committed to a mental hospital even while he was a sitting governor.

The drama started on a Thursday evening, May 28, in the governor’s mansion, when Long became inexplicably violent. His wife, Blanche, later said he tried to kill her. For two days he remained locked in his room, until, crying nonstop, he was examined by a psychiatrist. Then, Eleanor Harris wrote in the Times-Herald in 1959, “with the suddenness of a thunderbolt, he seemed to go uncontrollably wild… all through the night those belowstairs could hear the crash of breaking wood and glass, and a steady stream of shouted profanity. At one point the governor tore a heavy post from his bed. At another, after throwing some heavy ashtrays through the glass of his windows, he stood screaming, ‘Help! Murder!’ into the night air.”

So, against his will and restrained by six men, Earl was shipped off to a hospital in Galveston, Texas. He remained there for 17 days and tried to adopt a 14-year-old fellow patient. He managed to get a court-ordered release by agreeing to treatment in New Orleans, escaped, was arrested by the Baton Rouge sheriff on his wife’s orders, and put in a Louisiana state hospital. After eight days he called the state hospital board and had the people holding him in the hospital fired and replaced them with two men who declared him sane.

Probably due to a combination of Earl’s madness as well as his flagrant affair with the stripper Blaze Starr (whose fur coat hangs in the mansion to this day), Blanche moved out of the executive mansion after Earl returned from the hospital. After being “dis-domiciled” by Blanche, as he put it, Earl became even more flagrant. When French President Charles de Gaulle visited New Orleans in 1960, Earl had the driver detour down Bourbon Street past the Sho-Bar where Blaze worked so she could get a glimpse of the French leader.

On his final night as governor, Earl reportedly “invited every stripper from the Sho-Bar to a big blowout at the mansion. With his help and encouragement, the party-goers stripped the house of silverware, glasses, and all china. Then, with the radio playing "Hound Dog," Blaze Starr took it all off as Uncle Earl shouted to the assembled crowd, "Last strip at the governor's mansion.”

Not all of the mansion’s colorful occupants were Longs. Two-term Gov. Jimmy Davis (he served both before and after Earl) also wrote “You Are My Sunshine,” had no birth certificate, did not sleep in a bed until he was 9, and stabled his horse inside the mansion.

Davis was also the mansion’s last occupant.

Taking office in 1960, Davis wanted a governor’s mansion with air conditioning. Informed that it would cost $1 million to install, he allegedly said he could build a nice new mansion for that amount. Construction began on the new mansion in 1961 and took two years. Ringed by 21 Doric columns, the less-exciting new house held 12 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms, and in return for legislative support of its funding, The New York Times reported, “the governor made clear that he would also favor public works projects that might benefit the legislators' districts.”

Since becoming a relic of political history, the mansion has been fortunate enough to be preserved and have undergone a multimillion-dollar restoration. This means, for now, Long’s ego trip has yet to go the same way as Ozymandias’ sculpture.

The mansion is open for guided tours Tuesday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. More info here.