History of the New Canal Lighthouse
This may seem like a strange place for a lighthouse but the lighthouse is here for the same reason New Orleans is here. It's all about shipping. Traveling up through the mouth of the Mississippi River on sail was quite difficult. The Mississippi was a very large, sediment laden river, with shifting shoals at the mouth hindering navigation. The estuary of Lake Pontchartrain provided the perfect solution. Ships were able to travel from the Gulf into the estuary and down a natural way called Bayou St John. The Bayou brought the ships within easy portage distance to the Mississippi without having to go through the mouth of the river. The Louisiana purchase in 1803 brought tensions between the French Creole who operated the Bayou St John canal and the Americans pouring into town. Soon the Americans decided they needed to build their own canal, the New Basin Canal. The canal company sent representatives to Ireland to recruit workers desperate from the potato famine. The Irish came to New Orleans by the thousands to dig the canal with shovels and wheel barrels for less than $1/day. It is estimated that 8,000-10,000 died during the creation of the canal thru mosquito infested swamps, yellow fever, typhoid fever and malaria. A Celtic cross as a remembrance of the Irishmen who died during the digging of the canal stands on West End Blvd. The original New Basin Canal was 6 miles long, 6 feet deep, 60 feet wide, took 6 years to build. It has since been mostly filled in to make room for I-10. At the mouth of the canal, is where they build the first New Canal Lighthouse.