American Pyramids


French explorers, eager to claim territory for the empire, brought the fleur de lis to America. It travelled the Mississippi from the mouth of the river to as far a Quebec, Canada. In every encounter it left a lasting impression. But as time went on, many people lost their taste for the symbol. Over the years, it remained in the dark as a political device still being subtly used. In New Orleans, the old town society would use it as a way to harken back to times of French rule under the new American regime. Their connections to the now defunct Bourbon dynasty of France made them feel in some way superior to the prudish American colonialist and back woods European settlers who oftentimes found themselves trudging through the vast forests and marshlands of the American Gulf South, covered in the “mud” of survival work.

As a last testament to the power of the fleur de lis before a near century of silence, Louisiana’s populist governor, Huey P. Long built a monument along the mighty Mississippi River. In an effort to steal back power from the New Orleans regime spiritually connected to the French fleur de Lis, Huey Long and his architect Leon Charles Weiss, creatively, built the Louisiana capitol building in Egyptian Revival style. The message was completely clear. Huey P. Long, a man of the people, was summoning images of Egypt and its natural connections with the fleur de lis in order to trump the New Orleans elite. Instead of the irises and lilies of medieval French legend, Long made it clear that the lotus and the papyrus were what supported his claims to power. As if the Egyptian revival style was not rebellious enough for the Bayou State, building the capitol monument to the exact height as the great pyramid at Giza added salt to the wound. Being the highest in the nation, the capitol rises to a peculiar height. At 450 feet high it is Huey’s pyramid, set along the Mississippi Delta, surrounded by vast marshlands of cattails (the American papyri), for all the world to see. Long would not live much longer. He was assassinated in the building he commissioned - entombed in his pyramid.

Huey P. Long’s “pyramid”, the capitol building built on the Mississippi Delta, is not alone. There is another pyramid upstream. Positioned on the banks of the river in Memphis is The Great American Pyramid. This Tennessean pyramid was used in its early years as a sports arena. Originally envisioned by artist Mark C. Hartz and adopted into use by entrepreneur John Tigrett, the passionate Memphians felt compelled remind the city a symbol of its ancient heritage. Once the capitol of Egypt, Memphis was a vast and sprawling city along the Nile. 

At 321 feet high this pyramid also mimics the history of other pyramids. In Dashur, a city in Egypt, a monumental pyramid rises to the same height. The symbolic height of 321 feet, like that of the Great Pyramid, speaks for itself. The monuments are connected and related in strikingly similar ways.