The FutureBR plan for Baton Rouge includes recommendations for a streetcar line from LSU to downtown. This reminded me that I've heard people say Baton Rouge actually used to have streetcars long ago. With my growing awareness that there are groups devoted to restoring and preserving structures nationwide, I figured people might be more willing to support streetcars if the new lines were built along the historical lines.
First thing I needed to do was find out where the streetcars used to run. Riding around town on a bike didn't turn anything up except remnant rails in the intersection of East Blvd. with Mayflower, Europe, and France.
Somebody at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana suggested I contact Library Information Services, the Division of Historic Preservation, and the State Archives. But right before I did, a friend of mine came to the rescue. Frank McMains provided me with scans of the book Louisiana: Its Street and Interurban Railways. This book seems to be the authority on the history of streetcars in the entire state, much as the title suggests. It contains descriptions of routes and years they existed, as well as some pretty decent maps. Now I could move forward with making a map, which was my goal all along.
As I read through the chapter on Baton Rouge, I realized a series of maps would be better than having just one. The streetcar lines changed throughout the years, so I would make one map for each period. Below, you'll see the year that started a period. There is some question as to when exactly the mule lines were turned into a belt line, so I show this one as "1891/1892".
This webpage and map were used in the presentation "Getting on Board With TOD (Transit Oriented Development)" at the 2011 Louisiana Smart Growth Summit.
The first streetcars were pulled by mules imported from McKinney, Texas. The opening ceremony was on 16 October 1890 (130 years ago). By 1892, there were 6 cars, 26 mules, and 1 horse. The system was soon electrified. A large crowd gathered at Main and Lafayette on 6 April 1893 as a silver spike was driven in the ground with a golden hammer. A bottle of champagne was smashed on the spike, and three electric cars roared away.
One by one, the lines were closed down and replaced with buses. The final line was closed on 23 April 1936 with a morning ceremony on the corner of 3rd St. and North Blvd. (83.7 years ago).