Chandeleur Island Lighthouse

July 22, 2019

Chandeleur Island Lighthouse, Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana


Location: Outer rim of Chandeleur Sound
Station Established: 1848
Year Current / Last Tower(s) First Lit: 1896
Operational: No
Automated: Yes, 1951?
Deactivated: n/a (destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, 2005)
Foundation Materials: Pile
Construction Materials: Iron
Tower Shape: Skeletal with cylinder
Markings/Pattern: Brown with black lantern
Relationship to Other Structure: Separate
Original Lens: Third Order Fresnel, 1896
Fog Signal:

Historical Information:

  • Act of March 3, 1847 authorized a lighthouse "on South Chandeleur island" and appropriated $12,000 for its construction.
  • 1847: Probably the largest lighthouse reservation in the U.S. at 5,000 acres was acquired by Executive Order dated 24 September 1847.  3,080 acres reported as surplus and transferred in 1938 to Biological Survey.
  • 1848: Lighthouse was reported as complete.  Outfitted with nine lamps in 21-inch reflectors, fixed white characteristic; lantern was 55 feet above the base.
  • 1852: The light station and tower were completely destroyed (a story in the 31 August 1852 Daily Picayune stated that the "Light-house [was] leveled to the ground") by the hurricane which hit on 25-26 August 1852.  The keeper, Alexander Lea and his family survived.
  • Act of March 3, 1853 authorized $15,000 for a replacement.  A new brick tower was completed and reported as being in operation by 1855.
  • 1861: The commanding officer of the USS Massachusetts reported removing the lighthouse's lens and "secure the lighting apparatus. . . .to prevent its falling into the hands of the rebels. . . ."  The station was re-established later that year and lit after the island was occupied and fortified by Union forces.  It was the first lighthouse in the Gulf of Mexico to be captured and relit by Union forces.
  • The 1865 Light List entry noted: "On the northern extremity of Chandeleur Island, to guide vessels into Cat and Ship Island anchorages."  It exhibited a fixed fourth-order, was a white tower with a focal plane of 50 feet above base and sea level.  The light was also "refitted" in 1864.
  • 1893: Another hurricane, which came ashore on 1 October 1896, washed away many of the light station's buildings but the tower withstood the storm although it sustained serious damage.  The 5 October 1893 issue of the Daily Picayune (page 3) noted the "The old Light has been almost completely wrecked.  The foundation has given away on one side and the old brick tower has begun to lean greatly towards the sea.  So great is the angle that it is dangerous for a man to enter the Tower.  The Light itself is also damaged."  The Secretary of the Treasury noted that the lighthouse was too damaged to repair and recommended building a replacement.
  • Act of August 18, 1894 authorized $35,000 for the construction of a new lighthouse on a safer site.  Contracts were signed in August and September of 1895.  The former was for the iron materials and the latter for the actual construction.  A small lantern was used in the interim to replace the original lighthouse.  It was set 1,850 feet east-southeast of the old lighthouse's location.
  • The new third-order lens was lighted on 31 October 1896.  The tower was reported as being completed on 25 August 1896.  It was an iron skeleton tower, painted mineral brown, and exhibited a fixed white light with a focal plane of 102 feet above sea level.
  • The hurricane of 1915 (28-29 September) damaged the station.  Keeper William W. Bayly, First Assistant Keeper Maurice Durabb and Second Assistant Keeper Junie C. Welch were commended for their work "under hazardous conditions."
  • A hurricane again damaged the light station on 5 July 1916.  Repairs were not made for damage caused during this and the previous year's hurricane until 1919.
  • The 1916 Light List reported the tower exhibited a flashing red light.
  • A tornado swept through the station in 1920, damaging some of the station's structures.
  • The 1936 Light List reported that the characteristic was now a flashing white light.
  • The 1951 Light List reported that the lens was a 375mm acetylene type light and the station was "unmanned" although other sources indicate it was manned until 1966.
  • In 1966 all remaining 1,920 acres was reported as surplus and turned over to Bureau of Land Management while still "maintaining the right to operate light over a specified arc."
  • The tower survived hurricanes Camille and George but in 2005 Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed it.