Pass Manchac Light

Sept. 24, 2019

Pass Manchac Light, Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana

Built in 1837, with re-construction in 1857.


Location: West shore of Lake Pontchartrain
Station Established: 1837
Year Current / Last Tower(s) First Lit: 1857
Operational: No
Automated: Yes, 1941
Deactivated: 1987
Foundation Materials: Stone
Construction Materials: Brick
Tower Shape: Cylindrical
Markings/Pattern: White
Characteristic: Fixed red (pre-Civil War); Fixed white
Relationship to Other Structure: Attached
Original Lens: 10 lamps with 14-inch reflectors, 1838; Fourth Order, Fresnel, 1859
Fog Signal: Fog bell (1,200 pounds); mechanically struck, 1898

Historical Information:

  • 1837: Site of 2.24 acres acquired by Executive Order May 24, 1837 for the establishment of a light station.
  • Francis D. Gott received contracts to build three lighthouses on Lake Pontchartrain.  On 3 August 1838 he received the Port Pontchartrain and Pass Manchac contracts, four days after he received the New Canal contract.  Contract price was $4,800.  The Pass Manchac tower was made of brick instead of the usual lime and sand on the same plan as the Tchefuncte River light and carried 10 lamps for illumination.
  • 1839: First keeper, Isaac Zachary, was appointed on 16 January 1839 and the light was officially lit around this time.
  • By 1840 the tower was said to be falling apart.  The brick was not set in lime mortar but rather mud mortar.
  • 1842: Contract let to demolish old tower and built new one.  No specifications are in the file so it is assumed it was rebuilt to the plans of the original tower.
  • Isaac Zachary was removed as keeper after it was discovered that he did not reside at the station and had the assistant keeper run the light.
  • 1844: Light was again repaired due to encroaching water.
  • 1846: A new light was constructed next to the foundations of the older towers.  This was a frame building, two-stories high with an attic.  It was built on a cypress foundation.  Cupola of eight feet diameter rising five feet above the roof.
  • 1857-1859: Continued problems with erosion led to the construction of an entirely new light station 200 feet northwest of the three old towers.  The "new" lighthouse consisted of a brick dwelling attached to a brick cylindrical tower, the only such tower on the Gulf.  It was completed in 1857 and used the old lamps and reflectors until these were replaced by a Fourth-Order Fresnel lens in February, 1859.
  • The Confederates confiscated the lens in 1861 and stored it at the New Canal station where it was recaptured by Union forces.  The tower itself was severely damaged during the war but was repaired and returned to service by mid-January 1867 with a Fifth-Order lens.
  • Levi Wells took over as keeper in 1867.  Anthony Succow took over as keeper in 1868.  His wife, Mary, took over in 1873 and their son, Hugo, relieved her in 1909.
  • 1888: Station was heavily damaged by storm of 19-20 August 1888.
  • 1890: Station was again heavily damaged by the storm of 21-22 April 1890.
  • 1898: A 1,200 pound fog bell with mechanical striker was installed.
  • 1915: Hurricane of 28-29 September 1915 hit.  With 130-mph winds pushing high tides into the lake, and much of Lake Pontchartrain into Pass Manchac, Keeper Hugo A. Succow and assistant Joseph W. Sharp kept the light "alive" in the tower.  Station sustained some damage.
  • 1926: Station was damaged yet again during the hurricane of 24-25 August 1926.
  • 1931: Another storm damaged the station on 14-15 July 1931.
  • The station was automated in 1941.  
  • The keeper's quarters were razed in 1953.  At the time the light was standing on an island.
  • The light was extinguished in 1987.
  • The tower has been abandoned but restoration plans are underway.  The tower developed a list due to erosion of the foundation and pilings have been placed near the structure.  The tower now stands in several feet of water.
  • The lighthouse is not operational and is accessible only by boat.

Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.