Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Image by Ken Lund
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most often referred to as Louisiana State University or LSU, is a public coeducational Level l Research university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was originally founded in 1853 near Pineville, Louisiana, under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy. LSU is the flagship institution of the Louisiana State University System, and the largest institution of higher education in Louisiana in terms of student enrollment. The LSU main campus occupies a 650-acre (2.6 km²) plateau on the banks of the Mississippi River, and boasts more than 250 buildings constructed in the style of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.
LSU consists of ten senior colleges and schools, and is one of only twenty-one American universities designated as a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant research center. In 2009, the University enrolled 21,000 undergraduate and 4,000 graduate and professional students. LSU is classified as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report, placing it among the top 130 universities in the United States. The University’s athletic department fields teams in 20 varsity sports (9 men’s, 11 women’s), and is a member of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the SEC (Southeastern Conference). LSU Tigers football began in 1893, with national championship wins in the 1958, 2003 and 2007 seasons. The University is represented on the field by it’s mascot, Mike the Tiger.
The current LSU campus is located on 2,000 acres (8.1 km²) just south of downtown Baton Rouge. A majority of the universities 250 buildings, most of which were built between 1925 and 1940, occupy a 650-acre (2.6 km²) plateau on the banks of the Mississippi River. Other campuses in the LSU system include the LSU Agricultural Center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, University of New Orleans, LSU Shreveport, LSU at Eunice, LSU Alexandria, and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans. In addition, LSU owns and operates the J. Bennett Johnston, Sr. Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices (CAMD), which is a 1.3 GeV synchrotron radiation facility .
The Olmsted Brothers Firm of Brookline, Massachusetts, designed the current campus around 1921 when LSU was planning to move it’s campus from downtown Baton Rouge. The Olmsted firm originally designed the campus for up to 3,000 students, but state officials asked the firm to scale the plan back due to budgetary constraints; subsequently, the new plan presented to the state by the Olmsted Brothers centered the campus around a cruciform-shaped quadrangle similar to the one that exists on campus today.
For reasons unknown, the Olmsted Brothers firm was dropped from the project, and an architect named Theodore Link, who was well-known for designing Union Station in St. Louis, Missouri, took over the campus master plan. Link collaborated with Wilbur Tyson Trueblood on the project, but remained faithful to the campus that the Olmsted firm had designed. Unfortunately, Link died in 1923 before the plan was completed. New Orleans architects Wogan and Bernard completed Link’s work and the campus was dedicated on April 30, 1926.
The first building actually constructed on the present campus was the Swine Palace, the former livestock barn that is now the Reilly Theater. Most of the current buildings that occupy the universities Quad where completed between 1922 and 1925. Because the original campus was designed to accommodate 1,500 students, space is now at a premium at LSU. During the 1990s, LSU officials created a set of design guidelines that call for all newly constructed buildings to have an Italian Renaissance flavor.
Although the Olmsted firm had originally envisioned a Spanish or Mexican style design for the University, Link designed the campus with tan stucco walls, red-tiled rooftops, and extensive porticoes in an attempt to emulate the architecture of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. The design of Hill Memorial Library was loosely based on that of the Boston Public Library, which was the first public library in the U.S. The flanking academic buildings that formed the rest of the Quad represented the major disciplines at the university, and their placement was modeled after that of buildings on the University of Virginia’s campus, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson.
LSU’s campus is also known for the 1,200 live oak trees that shade the ground of the university. During the 1930’s, landscape artist Steele Burden planted many of LSU’s live oaks and magnolia trees, which are now valued at over million. Many of the azaleas, crepe myrtles, ligustrum, and camellias planted in the quadrangle were added to the campus in the 1970’s. Through the LSU Foundation’s “Endow an Oak” program, individuals and groups are able to endow live oaks across the universities campus. Thomas Gaines, author of The Campus as a Work of Art, praises LSU’s landscaping as "a botanical joy" and lists it among the 20 best campuses in the United States.
Fifty-seven buildings on the LSU campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the campus is protected by the State Capital Historic District Legislation. The LSU Indian Mounds, which are part of a larger mound group spread throughout the state, are located near the northwestern corner of the campus and where built an estimated 5,000 years ago. Originally serving as territorial markers, or possible symbols of group identity, the mounds are older than any other man-made structure in the Americas, and predate the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The mounds were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.