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 beacon was re-lit in September 2012. The light shines nightly for all to see.
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.
Our museum offers 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.
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.
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. This first 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 a reclamation project placed the lighthouse on dry land. 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 operated 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, her daughter, took over. Riddle was commended for heroism for keeping the light lit during a hurricane. Margaret Norvell relieved Riddle in 1924. In her tenure as the New Canal lightkeeper, 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.