Around Lake Pontchartrain

5. Western Shores -- Pass Manchac

Pre History
1699 Exploration
1701 Fort St. John
1703 Trappers on the Bayou
1718 New Orleans is Founded
1732 Native Americans
1735 Native Americans
1759 Map of the Portage
1763 Spanish Rule
1768 Map of the Water Route
1770 Spanish Fort Postcards
1778 Hurricanes
1779 Spanish Rebuild the Fort
1780 Hurricane
1784 Custom House
1795 Carondelet Canal
1803 Madisonville
1808 U.S. Restores the Fort
1811 Bayou St. John Light
1803 Louisiana Purchase
1814 Madisonville
1815 Steamboat Travel Begins
1816 Bayou St. John a Port
1820's Concert Hall & Garden at Spanish Fort
1823 Spanish Fort on the Bayou
1828 Map
1837 Hurricane Destroys the Bayou St. John
1838 New Canal Light
1830 Pontchartrain Railroad
1868 Submarine Find
1868 receipts for the Jewess and Frances
1831 New Basin Canal
1832 Port Ponchartrain/Milneburg Light
1838 Port Ponchartrain Surveyer
1838 New Canal/West End Light
1839 Milneburg
1839 Milneburg
1839 Pontchartrain Railroad
1840 By 1840, New Orleans had become by far the wealthiest and was ranked as the third most populous
1849 Southern Yach Club
1849 Southern Yacht Club
1850 Louisville & Nashville Railroad
1850 West End, Lakeport, Bucktown
1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin
1858 Harper's Magazine
1859 Bruning's
1859 Corpheous
1860's Hurricanes
1861 Most citizens have access to the Lake
1861Bayou St. John's Port, Lake Port (West End), and Port Pontchartrain (Milneburg Port)
1863 Madisonville
1863 Woodcut Civil War engraving
1863 Civil War Military Map
1865 - Civil War Order
1866 - The Little Blue Train
1868 Map
1870 Milneburg Port declines but Jazz flourishes
1870 The Smoky Mary begins
1870 West End
1870 The Lake House is destroyed in a fire
1871 Land is reclaimed at West End
1873 - Plan plan for the redevelopment of the south shore
1873 Spanish Fort
1874 Mark Twain writes about Spanish Fort in Life on the Mississippi
1874 Mark Twain writes about West End in Life on the Mississippi
1875 Rowles Stereograph Photograph titled 'Protection levee Lake Pontchartrain'
1879 Illustration from The Nathanial Bishop book
1880 Smokey Mary
1880 - Alligators at Spanish Fort
1880 - Casino at Spanish Fort
1880 - Opera House at West End
1880 Fountain West End
1880 Hotel West End
1880 West End Pavillion
1880s - Water Polo at West End
1880s Bird's Eye View- New Basin Canal at West End
1880s Bridge over New Basin Canal at West End
1880s Pavilion at West End
1880s Spanish Fort at Bayou St. John
1883 Point-aux-Herbes
1884 - Concert Hall at Spanish Fort
1888 (Papa) Jack Laine forms his first brass band
1890 - 1920 Buddy Bolden's Band plays
1890 Ferdinand (Jelly Roll) Morton is born
1890's West End Garden Amusement Park
1890s - Spanish Fort Train
1890s Ferris Wheel at West End
1890s view of Bayou St. John
1890's Bucktown
Lake Pontchartrain at West End
1891 Painting-the Lake and Milneburg
1892 Map
1893 Woman Lighthouse keeper at Milneburg shelters storm victims
1894 - La Belle Zoraide by Kate Chopin
1895 Lumber Schooner, New Basin Canal
1896 - The first movie in New Orleans was shown at the Lake
1897 - A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin
1897 - Athénaïse by Kate Chopin
1899 - The Goodness of St. Rocque by Alice Dunbar
1895 Cape Charles Car and Passenger Ferry
1900's Milneburg Walk
1910 Bayou St. John Sailor Girl
1919 Spanish Fort Ad
1929 Port Pontchartrain/Milneburg Light decommissioned
1940's Dig
1960s Kiddieland
August 2005
1. Bayou St. John
2. Milneburg/Pontchartain Beach
Military Installments
Shushan Airport
3. Hayne Blvd. and Beyond
Lincoln Beach
Chef Pass/Fort McComb
Fort Pike & The Rigolets
"Pointe Aux Herbes"
4. Northshore -- Fontainbleau, etc.
5. Western Shores -- Pass Manchac
The German Coast
6. Engineering Marvels -- Spillway
7. Bucktown
8. west end
General Area



State Historical Marker:

South boundary of Tangipahoa Parish. Part of line dividing Isle of Orleans from Florida Parishes. Boundary between British West Florida and Spanish Louisiana, 1763-1783; Spanish West Florida and French Louisiana., 1803; U.S. and Spanish West Florida, 1803-1810.

In 1699 Iberville reached Bayou Manchac via Mississippi River.



Station Established: 1837
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1868
Operational? NO
Automated? YES 1952
Deactivated: 1987
Foundation Materials: STONE
Construction Materials: BRICK
Markings/Pattern: WHITE
Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED
Original Lens: FOURTH ORDER, FRESNEL 1859


In 1682, French explorer La Salle discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River by sailing down the river from French settlements in the Great Lakes region. La Salle named the area near the river’s mouth Louisiana, after his king, Louis XIV. A few years later, La Salle attempted to find the Mississippi from the Gulf, but ended up in Texas, and was assassinated while trying to make it back to the river.

Under the direction of Jerome de Pontchartrain, minister of the Marine of France, a second expedition led by Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d’Iberville was dispatched to locate the river in 1698. After finding the mouth and sailing upstream to a point near present day Baton Rouge, Iberville was informed by local Indians about a backdoor route (Manchac in Choctaw) to his ships, which were anchored in the Mississippi Sound near Biloxi. This shortcut led Iberville through a bayou, two lakes and another bayou before reaching the sound. Iberville named the first and smaller of the two lakes Maurepas after Pontchartrain’s son, while the larger lake was named after Pontchartrain himself. Today, the winding, seven-mile-long waterway which links the two lakes is known as Pass Manchac.

For the next two hundred years, ship captains used the lakes to reach Louisiana’s interior, avoiding the daunting task of sailing upstream against the powerful Mississippi current. In 1837, the sum of $6,000 was allocated for building a lighthouse at the northeastern end of Pass Manchac to mark this link between the lakes. A conical brick tower was constructed by Francis D. Gott of New Orleans, and the first keeper, Isaac Zachary, received his appointment on January 16, 1839.

The first lighthouse was just one of four that have marked the pass. “Mud mortar” was used in the original tower instead of lime and sand, and in just three years the tower was disintegrating and had to be rebuilt. Most of the material in the tower could be reused in the second tower, and the construction bill came in at a low $1,630. The replacement tower didn’t last much longer than the first. The lake encroached on the station, until the tower’s foundation was completely submerged and the integrity of the tower was compromised.

The third Pass Manchac Lighthouse was significantly different than the first two. The lighthouse, built using cypress trees found abundantly in the nearby swamps, consisted of a two-story Victorian dwelling with a tower rising from its center. The focal plane of the light was thirty-six feet above the lake. A tower based on the same design was later constructed at South Pass.

The third tower had the same problem as its predecessors: it was built too close to the shore. As the buffer zone between the tower and the lake eroded away, the tower developed a lean. A breakwater was built around the lighthouse in a vain attempt to save the structure. In 1855, the Lighthouse Board was forced to solicit funds for the construction of a fourth tower.

A construction site was selected two hundred feet northwest of the third lighthouse on a spot of ground that was not prone to flooding. The lighthouse design called for a one-and-a-half story brick dwelling connected to a cylindrical tower of roughly the same height. This cylindrical tower was the first and only one to be built along the Gulf Coast. A system of reflectors was used in the tower upon its completion in 1857, until a fourth-order lens was provided in 1859. The lens was removed for safe keeping by Confederates on September 18, 1861, as the Civil War affected the area.

The war was hard on the tower. Lighthouse Engineer Max Bozano reported that “as might be expected, there was all possible damaged done, such as carrying away doors, windows, breaking the lantern glass by making a target of it”. The lantern had to be replaced, but the lighthouse was repaired in less than two months and was back in service in January of 1867. The dwelling was home to the Succow family for over fifty years. Anthony Succow began his service as keeper in 1868. His wife, Mary, took over in 1873, and she was followed by her son Hugo in 1909.

The lighthouse was automated in 1941, and stood empty for over a decade. Then, in 1952, the dwelling was razed to keep out unwelcome occupants. At that time, the lighthouse sat on an island, no longer attached to the peninsula. The Coast Guard abandoned the property in 1987, when the light was decommissioned. Without upkeep, the tower continued to deteriorate, and would have been doomed had the Lake Maurepas Society not taken interest in the lighthouse in 1995. An offshoot of the society, the Manchac Lighthouse Committee, was formed in 1999 to take responsibility for the structure.

Ben Taylor has served as president of the group, and successfully led an effort to have the lighthouse transferred from the Coast Guard to the state. This move, transacted on December 28, 1999, allowed the committee to secure $230,000 of state funding for restoration of the lighthouse. Using that sum, coupled with $16,000 raised by the group, a two-phase restoration plan for the lighthouse was prepared. In phase one, the tower’s foundation was to be secured, and in phase two the tower would receive a new foundation and be relit. Phase one began in 2002, when wooden pilings were driven around the tower, to shore up its foundation and prevent it from toppling over. At that time, the lantern room was also removed from the tower for restoration, but unfortunately it broke in two during the process.

The lighthouse committee, still armed with a significant sum of money, is currently rethinking its plan for the tower. With the base of the tower submerged under several feet of water and given the towers pronounced lean, drastic measures will be required to save it. As the tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, thoughts of moving the tower, which would compromise the tower’s historical status, have previously been dismissed. However, given the precarious condition of the tower, perhaps moving it ashore is the best way to preserve it. The tower would be more accessible to the public, and the ever encroaching Lake Pontchartrain could be held at bay.

In April of 2003, the lighthouse was over a thousand feet from the nearest shore. It is hard to imagine that just a hundred years earlier, Keeper Succow and his family maintained a garden and a small farm with chickens and cows next to the lighthouse.


Pass Manchac Light



The Illinois Central's Panama Limited at Pass Manchac north of New Orleans enroute to Chicago. In 1912, the IC renamed its New Orleans to Chicago route in honor of the opening of the Panama Canal. A few years later, the Panama Limited became an all-Pullman train - the luxury night train to Chicago. With a brief hiatus during the Depression, the Panama continued to provide Chicago-New Orleans service (along with its sister train, the day time coach train The City of New Orleans) until the late 1960s, when night service was discontinued.

[Photograph by Richard Dixon. General Interest Photograph Collection]

From exhibits/choochoo/page3.htm


Middendorf's restaurant at Akers, Louisiana at Pass Manchac.

1770 Spanish Fort is Established


1863  Woodcut Civil War engraving

1850s West End & Lakeport development begins

The Lake