The New Canal Lighthouse at West End on Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans, Louisiana is the fourth lighthouse to stand at the south shore lakefront site. Rebuilt by Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (LPBF), it is open to the public six days a week as an inviting destination with a museum, gift shop, and scenic grounds. The front yard facing the lake has just been completed. Guided tours of the museum are offered Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Groups are welcome to schedule presentations. The lighthouse has hosted over 10,000 visitors since its opening eighteen months ago and has provided educational programming for many. Tour buses bring tourists daily to hear LPBF’s message. The lighthouse site is also available to be rented for special events or group meetings. It has already served as the venue for a sixty person luncheon, two weddings, and several meetings and parties.
The first lighthouse was placed on the site in 1839 when the New Basin Canal was dug by Irish and German immigrants to connect Lake Pontchartrain to the city. It marked the entrance to the canal and featured an octagonal cypress tower with a light on top. It only lasted a few years before beginning to tumble. In 1855 the second New Canal Lighthouse was built at the same site. Commissioned by the newly formed Lighthouse Board, it stood as a one story building topped by a fifth order Fresnel lens to shine out into the night. This lighthouse served the area well until a yacht club, relocated from the Gulf Coast, built an elaborate building across the New Basin Canal. The building blocked the little lighthouse’s light. The Lighthouse Board decided to replace the one story structure with a taller, more visible one shaped in a wedding cake fashion. It was built in 1890 and painted white with a bright red roof to serve as a day mark. At night the Fresnel lens beamed far into the lake.
The third incarnation of the New Canal Lighthouse is most familiar to locals as the West End Lighthouse or the old “Coast Guard Station.” The US Coast Guard operated out of the building from World War II until 2002 when they moved about a mile down the lakefront to a larger facility in Bucktown, Metairie. The New Canal Lighthouse sat vacant until the hurricanes of 2005 toppled it over. Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation worked to get permission to turn it into a museum and education center, and signed a lease with the United States Coast Guard to rebuild it in 2006. Using much of the 1890 materials, LPBF finished the replica in April of 2013.
Today, the museum displays one of the lights that shined in the cupola in the early 1900s. For more information go to www.saveourlake.org or call (504)836-2238.
This story appeared in the
Nov/Dec 2014 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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