Today in New Orleans History

September 15

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 The Bensons Buy a Tower
September 15, 2009
Benson Tower, September 2009.  Photo by Infrogmation 
Completed in 1989, the structure located at 1450 Poydras Street  is the  the 12th tallest building in New Orleans at 26-storys and a height of 406 feet. Developed by the DeBartolo Corporation as the New Orleans Centre (a mixed-use property of offices, retail shopping, and a 2,000-space parking garage), it is a component of a complex of connected buildings which includes the Superdome, 1250 Poydras Plaza, Entergy Tower, and the Hyatt Regency New Orleans hotel.   It has been known as the CNG Tower, the Dominion Tower, and Benson Tower. 
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, its occupancy rate was approximately 90%, with Dominion Oil & Gas, McDermott, and Crescent Bank & Trust among its most prominent tenants.  Katrina winds resulted in significant damage to the tower and the shopping complex.  The owner, Hertz Investment Group, vacated the property.  The former Lord & Taylor building was repaired and leased on a temporary emergency basis to the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans which had vacated their facility at Charity Hospital.
On on September 15, 2009, the building was purchased by family members of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson.  They included his daughter Renee Benson, granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc, and her brother Ryan LeBlanc via a family trust  (Zelia LLC), for $42.1 million --  one of the largest downtown real estate transactions post-Katrina. The trust is named for Tom Benson's great-grandmother.  Mr. Benson acted, not as owner, but as manager of the property.
The State of Louisiana committed to rent a significant portion of Benson Tower in lieu of making annual inducement payments to the Saints, to consolidate the State offices in Benson Tower, and to lease a portion of the retail property and redevelop it into an entertainment district near the Dome and the New Orleans Arena (now Smoothie King Arena) which includes the state  developed Champions Square.  Local and federal incentives were used also used.  According to Corporate Realty, by August 2012, 97.6% of Benson Tower had been leased.

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James 'Sugar Boy' Crawford, New Orleans rhythm & blues singer of 'Jock-A-Mo' died at age 77 on September 15, 2012.  The 1954 hit that was later recreated as "Iko Iko" by The Dixie Cups and recorded by many artists including Dr. John, Belle StarsThe Grateful Dead, Cyndi Lauper, and as "Geto Boys" by Glass Candy.  

Photo of post-Katrina recovery crews at the venerable headquarters of Hibernia Bank, 313 Carondelet Street, which reponed post reopened on October 31, 2005. The landmark white tower atop the building, one of the CBD's most recognizable symbols, had been lit since September 15  by generator power. (NOPL)

On September 15, 1978, Muhammad Ali become the first boxer to earn the World Heavyweight Champion title three times, by beating novice Leon Spinks by a fifteen round unanimous decision at their New Orleans rematch.

From September 15 through 18, 1875, a hurricane squall came in from the west with winds of 36 mph forced the steamer Natchez to collide with the ferry Louise, which resulted in both boats drifting downstream.

The above advertisements appeared in the September 15, 1978 edition of the Times-Picayune.

Prytania Streetcar is Electrified 
 September 15, 1894
 The New Orleans City Railroad Company was chartered on June 15, 1860. By 1861, twenty-six miles of horse railroad track had been laid. Service began on the Camp and Prytania Line on June 8, 1861. Streets of the original route included Canal, Camp, Prytania, Toledano, Poeyfarre, and Magazine. The Prytania Streetcar began operation on as a mule-drawn car line. It was called the "Silk Stocking" line because its route included the streets of the tony Garden District.   Various route changes and consolidations took place over the years.  Railway company's experimented with several potential substitutes for horsecars. The ammonia motor was tried on several lines, including the Prytania, but was considered to be impractical. By the 1890s all lines were electrified -- the Prytania Streetcar Line on September 15, 1894. Uptown residents could easily ride to Canal Street in the speedy and comfortable streetcars until October 1, 1932 when the line was discontinued.


The Prytania Streetcar Line was serviced almost exclusively by the "Prytanias," a luxurious class of electric cars just as distinctive as the elegant "Garden District" neighborhood. Fifty cars were ordered on April 21, 1910 from the St. Louisi Car Company.  The exteriors were painted yellow and orange and their numbers ran from 355 to 404.  Mahogany interiors surrounded patrons seated in St. Louis rattan seats. They looked out of Robertson windows that slid conveniently into side panels when open. The "Prytania" cars were designed for double-end operation and the prepayment of fares, the first of its type in New Orleans. 

The 800 model cars replaced the Prytanias on September 16, 1923.  The Prytanias were then shifted to lighter traffic routes.  A publics changing preference for private transportation made streetcar operation unprofitable.  According to a New Orleans Public Service Inc. newspaper announcement, the Prytania Streetcar Line discontinued operations on October 1, 1932 and the Nashville Bus Line began service over a part of the territory formerly served by the line. Prytania Street, itself, was not included.  Remaining Prytanias were scrapped that same year.  The Prytania streetcar barn was located on Prytania Street between Robert, Pitt, and Upperline.  After the city acquired the property, a 1936 ordinance dedicated it for "public purposes".  The location is now a shopping center, fronting Prytania, with a CVC pharmacy (4901 Prytania) as its anchor.  Main Source:

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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