the New Canal Lighthouse Museum and Education Center
The historic New Canal Lighthouse at West End on Lakeshore Drive was severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's reconstruction of the lighthouse is complete. The light shines nightly for all to see. The beacon was re-lit in September 2012.
Support Our New Canal Lighthouse
We still need your help in our efforts to support the lighthouse. Please consider making a donation or purchasing a personalized brick today!
Please send checks and money orders to LPBF, P.O. Box 6965, Metairie, La. 70009; or call in with your credit card to (504) 836-2215. Please write on the check or money order ATTN: Lighthouse.
LPBF’s mission is to offer programs that focus on the history of the lighthouse, the ecology of the Pontchartrain Basin and the critical coastal issues we face today in South Louisiana. The museum has on display a fresnel lens that was believed to have been in the lighthouse in the early 1900's. There are also displays depicting the history of the region and the lighthouse, the work of LPBF, recreational and commercial lake opportunities, and LPBF's plan to make our coast sustainable for the future.
Starting in 1999, LPBF actively sought ownership of the lighthouse. By the fall of 2007, we had dismantled the destroyed lighthouse and salvaged its pieces. The communications building at the lighthouse site was repaired and has been operating as our Education Center since 2009.
Lighthouse plans were developed by HMS Architects as an accurate reproduction of the lighthouse. The general contractor was Certified Construction Professionals. To complete the project, funds are still needed for outside site completion and dock reconstruction. Please help us as we continue to bring back this symbol of our rich maritime history and the resiliency of our communities. Purchase a personalized brick today or make a donation.
HISTORIC TIMELINE: For the New Canal Light, established in 1839.
Rebuilt in 1855. Rebuilt again in 1890.
|March 3, 1837
|| An act of Congress authorizes $25,000 for beacons and a lighthouse to be established at the entrance of the harbor recently constructed on Lake Pontchartrain, at the New Basin Canal above New Orleans.
|October 28, 1837
||The New Orleans Canal and Banking Company, under president Isidore W. Justamond, transfers the lakefront property to the United States government for the construction of a lighthouse.
|August 3, 1854
|| An act of Congress appropriates $6,000 for a new light house to replace the existing structure at the New Basin Canal. Years of expenditure: 1855-1857.
|March 10, 1863
||Light extinguished by order of General Sherman commanding the defenses of New Orleans during the Civil War
|January 11, 1869
Work continues to repair the breakwater. A new foreman is appointed.
“This station has been thoroughly repaired during the year. A substantial breakwater has been built on the east side of the structure, a slate roof substituted for the old one of shingles, which endangered the building from the sparks of passing steamers and the stove pipe.”
|January 25, 1890
Old building to be auctioned, construction begins on a new lighthouse.
“The keeper’s old dwelling was sold at public auction on January 29, 1890, and removed in a few days thereafter. The regular light was discontinued on February 5, 1890, and a lens lantern was displayed from a pole. A new structure, consisting of a square, two-story white frame dwelling with a slate roof, surmounted by a fifth order black lantern, was built on an iron pile foundation. The light, as heretofore, illuminates 270 degrees of the horizon, but the focal plane is now 49 feet above mean sea level. A new cistern resting on iron piles was put in and the store-house and out-building were repaired."
|September 28-29, 1915
||Devastating hurricane strikes New Orleans with a 12 foot storm surge and winds up to 130 mph. The old lighthouse bulkhead is destroyed.
|January 15, 1966
||Plans submitted for the construction of a new dock, bulkhead, and utility building
|May 13, 1982
||New insulated windows installed.
|April 11, 1984
||Cypress shutters and aluminum siding added for the entire exterior of the lighthouse.
|December 30, 1985
||The New Canal Light is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
||USCG announces the light will be surplused and LPBF begins the process of acquisition
||The Coast Guard moves its Station New Orleans to Bucktown, abandoning the New Canal Light.
||Hurricane Katrina destroys lighthouse.
||LPBF signs lease with U. S. Coast Guard to restore lighthouse.
||LPBF dismantles damaged structure and stores historic materials.
||Restoration phases begin.
||Communications center has been repaired. The Education Center opens.
February - Construction of the New Canal Lighthouse Museum begins.
July - Red roof added.
August - Construction continues. The cupola is installed.
September - Lighthouse beacon re-lit. Serves nightly as a private aid to navigation.
April - Lighthouse site opens to the public on Saturday, April 20th.
History of the New Canal Lighthouse
Adapted from Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico, By David L. Cipra
The first New Canal Lighthouse was built in 1839 when the U.S. Congress appropriated money for a lighthouse at the entrance of the New Basin Canal at Lake Pontchartrain. The New Basin Canal extended along what is now West End Boulevard to an area just north of the Superdome. The lighthouse was basically a cypress tower with a lantern on top set on pilings about 1,000 feet offshore.
By 1843 many of the lower timbers on the lighthouse had begun to rot requiring a new lighthouse to be built. In 1855 a one-story, square wood dwelling was constructed on screwpiles with a lantern on top of the roof. In 1880 the Southern Yacht Club was relocated to New Orleans from Biloxi and the building blocked the light. The Lighthouse Board sold the old lighthouse for scrap and mounted a new, two-story building 16 feet higher on top of the original iron piles in 1890. By the early 1900s several land building projects occurred along the lakefront and included a peninsula on which the lighthouse was moved. Since that time some additions and renovations brought the lighthouse up to modern standards for housing of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). The USCG occupied the lighthouse from the 1960’s until 2001.
Before the USCG, lightkeepers were used to operate the light. Notable among these keepers were several women. Elizabeth Beattie was appointed in 1847 after her husband, the station’s first keeper, died. In 1850, Jane O’Driscol took over when her husband died. Mary Campbell held the post from 1870 until 1895 when Caroline Riddle took over. Maggie Norvell relieved Riddle in 1924. Caroline Riddle was commended for heroism for keeping the light lit during a hurricane. Maggie Norvell saved 200 people by rowing them ashore during a fire on an excursion boat.
Hurricane Katrina was not the only hurricane to severely damage the lighthouse. In September of 1915 a hurricane with winds up to 130 miles per hour heavily damaged the station. Hurricane damage in 1926 resulted in the light being raised onto concrete piers.
Since 2002, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has actively sought ownership of the lighthouse once the USCG moved into their new station in Bucktown. Before Hurricane Katrina, LPBF was participating in the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Program to turn the lighthouse into an education center for the public featuring exhibits about the history of the light and the ecology of the Pontchartrain Basin.
Finally, a replica of the New Canal Lighthouse, destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, has been built. It incorporates original wood from the 1890 lighthouse that stood on the site and now operates as Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's New Canal Lighthouse Museum and Education Center.
Click here to help complete the site of the New Canal Lighthouse!