As one of the greatest cultural hubs of the South, Baton Rouge is home to its historic Third Street. Under the awnings of restaurants and shops, take a step back in time and travel through the decades to discover the birthplace of the Capital City.
A Rich History
While Baton Rouge has been settled since the early 18th century, the history of Third Street really dates back to the 1860s. “I’m going into town” is the phrase that many people from Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas would utter with excitement as they got ready to stroll down the social hub of the city. Before the Cortana Mall even existed, Third Street was the place to be.
The oil refinery business boomed in Baton Rouge after the Great Depression in the 1930s. This created an emerging middle class, and this increase in population, propelled the Third Street Industry for decades to come.
Civil Rights Trailblazers
The first bus boycott, organized by T.J. Jemison, took place in 1953 in Downtown Baton Rouge. It was so revolutionary that it caught Martin Luther King Jr. 's eye and inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. Because African-American residents made up about 80% of daily bus rides, more than 14,000 people boycotted the bus system and instead used a carpool system organized to effectively sustain the boycott. This was just the beginning of civil rights activism.
In 1960, student activists from Southern University chose the Kress store on Third Street as the location for their counter sit-in, continuing the protests that were sprouting up throughout the entire nation.
Downtown Downfall & Rise
The downfall in Baton Rouge’s historic Downtown began in the ‘80s, taking a toll in the late ‘90s due to the expansion of the city. With more areas for people to live, residents began to spread out all over the city, leaving the once-dazzling Third Street as “a quiet street of offices and eateries.”
With not only the start of a new decade, but also a new century, there was an effort to revitalize Downtown in the 2000s to make it the hub that it once was. With an increase in government activity and a booming cultural scene, a trip to Baton Rouge is not complete without a trip downtown.
Third Street Today
As soon as you step onto Third Street, you can’t help but be taken back to the bustle of the mid-20th century. From the architecture to the historic Coca-Cola sign to the trending restaurants and bars, this street has returned to its former glory. Here are a few suggestions of things to do, though we’re sure you won’t be lacking as soon as you arrive.
One of the best views in BR is located on the rooftop of the Shaw Center, but that is far
from all that the building is good for. On the first floor you will find the Manship Theatre
and museum gift shop, on the fifth floor is the LSU Museum of Art, which is currently featuring the exhibit “Destination: Latin America.” On the top floor, you will find local favorite Tsunami Sushi and the gorgeous view. What’s not to love?
The annual Third Street Songwriter’s Festival will take place from March 20-22, featuring local, regional and national songwriters. If you are a music lover, this is for you. Experience a Nashville-style festival in the heart of the Bayou State.
Food & Drink
After you have soaked in the history, stop by one of the many local eateries like Happy’s Irish Pub, Stroubes Seafood and Steaks or Cecelia Creole Bistro. Stroubes features an “Elevated southern cuisine,” Happy’s is the place to go if you’re looking to unwind in a casual environment and Cecelia’s is known for its sophisticated twists on Creole classics.
Show us how you Third Street by tagging #ExploreBatonRouge! For more of BR’s nightlife visit https://www.visitbatonrouge.com/things-to-do/bars-nightlife/.