History of the old lighthouse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The last time you were boating near Pass Manchac, did you notice the lighthouse or the ruins and stop to wonder about the history behind this old lighthouse?

Most people take it for granted and say it is just “an old lighthouse.” I often wonder, if that old lighthouse could talk, what wonderful old stories it could tell. Well, since it cannot tell us of its great experiences and days gone by, let me tell you its stories.

It was authorized in 1834 at a cost of $6,000 and was completed in 1837. From 1834 to 1980, there have been four lighthouses at Pass Manchac, with the fourth one standing looking across the lake today as you are reading this article.

The second lighthouse was built in 1846 and stood 32 feet, elevating its lens 34 feet above sea level. The red light that shone was visible for 12 miles.

The third lighthouse was begun in 1857, and its light shined for the first time in February of 1859. Its light was 45 feet above sea level but was only visible for 10 miles.

The first three were built in the same general area, but the fourth and present lighthouse was moved inland a short ways and rebuilt.

The third tower was built just prior to the rebellion. Armies on both sides heavily damaged the structure. The damage necessitated the building of the fourth structure.

The square brick structure beside the tower is where the lighthouse keeper had his home and lived. There were 15 acres on which this structure was located, but now only an area of about 60 feet by 60 feet is left. The rest of the land has been washed away by the tide that never stops.

Louisiana Treasures Museum has a collection of antique bottles that were found at this site. Stop by to see the collection and hear other fascinating stories about these great beauties that would shine in the night. For hours of operation and tours, call 225-294-8352.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum located at 10290 Highway 22, West Pontchatoula.