In your June 29 response about Spanish Fort, a photo with the article shows the lighthouse at Pontchartrain Beach. Noted with the photo is that this lighthouse marks the spot of the fort. In present tense, this is not true, right?
Of course, you are right. But this is not Old Blake's mistake. Someone else made the claim that the Pontchartrain Lighthouse -- also known as the Milneburg Lighthouse -- marked the site of Spanish Fort. Gambit published a correction in the July 6 issue. But it was not with the column, so you and many other readers missed it.
To set the record straight, Milneburg's Port Pontchartrain was the lake's first artificial harbor. Alexander Milne, the Scot who settled here and grew rich, built, along with other investors, the Pontchartrain Railroad in 1831 that ran down Elysian Fields from the Mississippi River. People could then take a boat across to the Northshore. The group of investors built its first lighthouse in 1832, an odd device that resembled a French Revolution guillotine about 50 feet high.
In 1834, Congress appropriated money for a replacement, but it was not completed until 1839. It was an octagonal wood tower with a flashing light but stood only 28 feet high.
In 1852, Congress voted $25,000 for harbor protection and $6,000 for a new lighthouse, which was begun and finished in 1855. The apparatus from the old tower was placed in the new tower and then replaced by a more powerful lens in 1857.
The shape of the lighthouse was changed when the top of the brick tower was flared out and the height increased by 7 feet to make room for the installation of a new lantern in 1880. At one time, the lighthouse was 2,100 feet offshore, but as a result of landfill projects it now stands on dry land.
What do you know about the Eastern Airlines plane crash into Lake Pontchartrain in 1964? Do you know if the plane was recovered?
A terrible tragedy, it was. Fifty-one passengers and seven crewmen were aboard the Eastern Airlines four-engine DC8 jetliner when it plunged into the lake on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 1964.
The plane was on the second leg of its flight from Mexico City to New York by way of New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. Most of the passengers were returning vacationers, and five were local residents.
When it took off at 2:01 a.m. the sky was overcast, but there was no rain. The plane vanished from the radar screen almost immediately, but no distress signal was heard. Then, about seven minutes later, the plane apparently disintegrated and crashed into the choppy waters south of Mandeville. Witnesses at subsequent hearings reported hearing an explosion.
A search was begun almost immediately by Coast Guard planes, helicopters, and patrol boats. A makeshift receiving station was set up at the New Canal Lighthouse -- that's the one at West End. The debris from the plane was to be taken to Hangar 101 at the lakefront airport.
The Coast Guard sent out four divers who said that they didn't find anything large enough to dive for. Magnetic cranes and an underwater closed-circuit television were also used. However, there was a great deal of breakup on impact. After three days, the search had yielded only about 500 pounds of debris, including plane parts, baggage, and personal effects, but the main sections of the plane had not been found.
The Civil Aeronautics Board took charge, and the search continued from sunup to sundown day after day. Forty boats, two Coast Guard helicopters, and 10 to 15 divers worked tirelessly, and at some point there were more than 200 people involved. Weather posed a problem in March, as did the deep layer of silt at the bottom of the lake.
In July 1964, there was a series of investigative hearings that lasted many days. Many people testified, but the cause of the crash remained a mystery. After all of the attempts to recover fragments of Flight 304, only 65 percent had been found.