Travel Treasures
Jan/Feb 2009 Issue

Mississippi’s Old Capitol has received a new facelift

More than a century has passed since the Mississippi Legislature convened in the Old Capitol in Jackson, but in honor of its freshly completed renovation, the Legislature will for the first time since 1903 open the session within the building’s hallowed chambers.

After that ceremonious event on Jan. 6, the restored museum will open to the public on Saturday, Feb. 7, to celebrate its rebirth. Severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Old Capitol has undergone a $14.2 million restoration of the interior and exterior.

Originally completed in 1839, the Old Capitol is among Jackson’s oldest buildings and is a masterpiece of 19th-century Greek Revival architecture. The building was constructed with a limestone base and a faux-limestone façade of scored stucco on three sides, with brick left exposed at the back. In 1961 the Old Capitol was renovated and the stucco was left off due to the taste of the times.

Now, the faux limestone has been reapplied. Also returning is an iron fence that was removed in a previous remodel, complete with two lanterns and six eagles atop the gateposts like the original.

Although the Old Capitol provided a dramatic setting for exhibits, it was poorly suited to house the state’s history museum. The rooms were small and nothing could be anchored to the walls. In the late 1990s, plans were made to build a new Museum of Mississippi History to provide more exhibit space. But those plans were put on hold so the hurricane-damaged Old Capitol could be restored.

The renovated Old Capitol Museum will interpret the history of the building that served as Mississippi’s statehouse from 1839–1903. There will be a special focus on government in action and smaller exhibits on the history of the state’s capital cities and the importance of historic preservation.

The Old Capitol is located at 100 S. State St. For details, call (601) 576-6920, or visit

Both the interior and exterior of the Old Capitol building were carefully restored. Mississippi Department of Archives and History photos


LSU Museum of Art to showcase the sculptures of Rodin

The Louisiana State University Museum of Art will celebrate legendary French artist Auguste Rodin this winter with a look at his realistic sculptures of people that helped change the face of art.

The museum, located in Baton Rouge, La., will present “Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession, Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation” from Jan. 25–April 19. The remarkable exhibition features 63 original bronze sculptures from the most famous projects of his prolific career. Accompanying the works are photographs, works on paper and the film, “Rodin: the Gates of Hell,” which explores the creative and technical processes of Rodin’s work.

This three-month exhibition highlights Rodin’s most ambitious work, “The Gates of Hell,” which consumed almost 40 years of his life. Rodin exhibited many of the individual figures from the project as independent sculptures, including his two most indelible images, “The Thinker” and “The Kiss.”

At the height of his career, Rodin was regarded as the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. Rodin was unsurpassed in his ability to represent the life and emotion of his subjects, veering away from the decorative and highly thematic works sculptors before him created. He treated his art not only as an opportunity to portray heroes, but also as a way to explore the complex emotions of humanity and the vitality of the human spirit. His work lives on in the public’s imagination.

The LSU Museum of Art is located on the fifth floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts at 100 Lafayette St. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10 a.m.–8 p.m. on Thursday; and 1–5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students with I.D., and free for school children. Metered street parking and paid parking lots are near the center.

For more information, call (225) 389-7200, or visit online at

“The Thinker” is among the sculptures that will be on display. Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, promised gift to the North Carolina Museum of Art


Mattress marathon marks Mardi Gras on the Mississippi Coast

In a piece of furniture made for slumber, contestants will awaken their competitive spirit and dash at top speed in the second Mardi Gras Bed Race this February.

Dozens of teams are expected to compete in this festive event in D’Iberville, Miss., located just north of Biloxi, on Feb. 21. The races will be the highlight of a weekend of events, which will kick off on Friday evening, Feb. 20, with a Pajama Ball.

For the races, the teams will decorate their wheeled beds in traditional Mardi Gras garb and other outlandish themes. The races will begin at 2 p.m. and one pajama-clothed rider will be pushed by four team members. In addition to the race itself, the teams will compete for prizes in several categories including the most creative bed, ugliest bed and people’s choice. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Salvation Army.

“We want people to have fun and be imaginative,” said organizer Demp Bell. “The more creative, the better.”

The family-friendly event also will feature a crawfish boil, live music and food booths. Then on Sunday, Feb. 22, the town will host the Mo-Joe Day Parade starting at 10 a.m. The parade is named after the legend of early French settler Maurice Joubert de LaBelle, known as Mo-Joe among Native Americans. He is said to have been carried atop his mattress one evening through the village happily drinking, singing and tossing beads and other trinkets.

Call (228) 238-7606 for more details, or click on

Bed Race
Teams will compete to have the fastest and best-looking beds. Demp Group photo

Lantern fest to illuminate Little Rock

The warm glow of candlelight and fire pits will help thaw cold winter nights in Little Rock, Ark., when the city’s scenic and serene Wildwood Park for the Arts hosts its new Lanterns festival.

Located in western Little Rock’s Chenal Valley, the park will celebrate its first Lanterns festival on Feb. 7–8. The magical evenings will celebrate the first full moon of the lunar year by lighting the 104-acre woodland park with a profusion of lanterns from a variety of eras, cultures and geographical locations.

The park is a botanical garden and center for the arts featuring an eight-acre lake, paved walking trails, a gazebo and several distinctive gardens. Also, the 625-seat Lucy Lockett Cabe Theatre hosts dramatic and musical productions.

During the Lanterns festival, visitors can explore the park and be warmed by fire pits along the lakeside performance space where they can reserve a table and enjoy music and gourmet treats. Floating luminaries will give the lake an ethereal glow. Visitors also can follow lighted paths into the woods where hot chocolate and other treats await.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 6–12. Wildwood Park is located at 20919 Denny Road. To buy advance tickets, call (501) 821-7275. For details, visit


Hurricane-restored estate honors Jefferson Davis

Three years after Hurricane Katrina leveled the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Biloxi estate of the only president of the Confederate States of America is nearing complete restoration and is once again open to the public.

Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis, has served as a memorial to the Confederate soldier since 1903. But during the 2005 hurricane, five of seven buildings at the site were destroyed and the other two were severely damaged. Beauvoir House lost its front and side porches and two sections of roof.

What remained of the artifacts and collections were recovered and Beauvoir House and the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library building were stabilized. Then the long process began to restore Beauvoir as a shrine to Davis.

The house repairs were completed last June–just in time to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Davis’ birth. Also, two replica pavilions that replaced original ones demolished in the storm were opened in October 2008. The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library is expected to be completed sometime in 2010.

Two trailers on the site serve as temporary quarters for the gift shop and museum. Guided tours of the main house are offered every 15 minutes, and a short movie examines the history of Beauvoir.

Located at 2244 Beach Blvd., Beauvoir is open daily from 9 a.m. –5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children. Call (228) 388-4400 for details, or visit online at


^ to top | previous page