By the late 1870's, Louisiana government and state debt was large, and the state was unable to meet payments on its debt. There were calls for a new constitution to solve the debt problem in 1877. Rural areas called for simply repudiating state debt. The Governor did not want to call a convention, but the legislature was determined to do so.
The convention began in New Orleans on April 21, 1879 at the State House. Of the 134 delegates, only 7 were black. Democrats were divided into several groups. Republicans held only one quarter of the seats. The new constitution strengthened the power of the governor, and put limits on the legislature. Integrated schools ended. Parish courts were abolished, and an intermediate appellate court established. The constitution boasted 268 articles, 107 more than the 1868 constitution. The convention ended on July 23, 1979. On December 2, 1879, the constitution was ratified by 86,494 votes to 27,346.
At the center of the St. Louis Hotel was a rotunda that rose to a height of 88 feet above the ground floor. After the state purchased the hotel for use as a state house, it had floors built within the rotunda space for use by the House and Senate. Here is an illustration that depicts Gov. Louis A. Wiltz (L.A.W.) lying in state in the Senate chamber.
courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection
Delegates met this day, at 12 o'clock m., In the hall of the House of Representatives of this State, In the State-House, at the city of New Orleans. This was also know as the old St. Louis Hotel. The State of Louisiana purchased the building via 1875 Act No. 6.