Julia Street: The Moonlight Tower

Julia

 

Dear Julia,

I have seen an old photo of the Henry Clay statue on the neutral ground of Canal street near the river. This was before the Henry Clay statue was moved to Lafayette Square.

In the background is a huge skeletal tower on the Canal street neutral ground at approximately Bourbon street. Apparently, it was called the moonlight tower. Can you or Poydras provide any more information? – Dr. Edward Richardson (Covington, LA)

Several cities at one time had towers like this, Edward. The big electric tower, you refer to, was on Canal where Bourbon and Carondelet meet.  According to historian John Magill, who specializes in studying early urban buildings, the tower was put up about 1887 and was meant to carry some of the telegraph, phone and electric wires that were filling up Canal utility poles. At its top was a high-power light that was designed to illuminate the surrounding street — thus Moonlight Tower. The light was a failure since the galleries that still lined Canal street stores blocked the light and helped cast dark shadows along the sidewalks. The tower was about 150 feet tall and by the late 1890s it had been abandoned and bits and pieces of it were falling into the street. It was torn down when Canal went through a major repaving and beautification in 1899-1900 when new light standards (not the ones there today which went up in 1929-1930) were installed. Similar, but smaller electric towers were put up along some other streets like Carondelet, Baronne and Dryades. While similar towers were used in a other cities, the only ones known to be still standing are in Austin, Texas, and are also called Moonlight Towers. The Austin ones were put up a bit later in 1894. Poydras warns all parrots heading to Austin to stay away from perching on the towers. That could be dangerous.


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