New Orleans' One Shell Square Skyscraper Gets a New Name

June 14, 2023

When it comes to skyscrapers, New Orleans has them by the plethora. But one building stands tallest among them all—and it just got a new name. The 71-story skyscraper known as One Shell Square will now be called Hancock Whitney Center, after the city’s new major tenant. The bank will move its Houston offices into the building after acquiring Pennzoil Company’s space there, and it was the first tenant to request a change to the structure, which is the second-tallest in the city. It was built in the early 1970s by Shell Oil, and its name was a signal to the world that Houston was becoming an energy capital. The tower also has a more personal significance for its former owner, Mellie Esperson: She had it designed after her husband’s death and requested that it be as extravagant as possible.

But what constitutes a skyscraper was the subject of debate as new engineering marvels allowed structures to soar ever higher. Ultimately, the architectural historians at Emporis determined that metallic skeleton frames embedded in the masonry and elevator systems were necessary elements for a skyscraper to be considered. This definition was broad enough to include such iconic buildings as the Metropolitan Life Tower in New York and Holabird & Roche’s Home Insurance Building in Chicago.

Since that time, the number of skyscrapers has increased exponentially. But not all states are on board: Vermont, Wyoming and South Dakota don’t have a single skyscraper more than 200 feet high, while New Mexico and Rhode Island only have a few. And some cities are a bit overcrowded with their skyscrapers, with the Manhattan borough of New York boasting more than 20 structures that rise at least that tall.


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