Sabine Pass Lighthouse

Sabine Pass Lighthouse

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THEN: Sabine Pass Lighthouse prior to its closure in 1952
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office

Then & Now: A Review of Historic Sites in Southwest Louisiana

On the east bank of Sabine Pass, where the Sabine River meets the Gulf of Mexico, stands a stoic nineteenth century lighthouse. With a rich history and rustic charm it is easy to understand why the Sabine Pass Lighthouse has captured the attention of lighthouse enthusiasts across the country.

Construction of the lighthouse began in 1856 on a mud bank surrounded by marshland. In order to secure the tower over the soft soil army engineers designed the octagon shaped lighthouse with eight buttresses at the base. The lighthouse is often described as looking like an antique rocket, due to the fin shaped supports. The lens was first lit in the spring of 1857 but it did not stay lit for long. At the beginning of the Civil War the lamp was extinguished and later dismantled by confederate forces to avoid it being used by the union navy. During the war union forces would frequently use the lighthouse as an observation post to spy on confederate forces across the river in Texas.

The lamp was relit in December of 1865 and operated until 1952. Over the next fifty years ownership of the lighthouse changed several times due to the high costs associated with restoration and maintenance. Today the lighthouse still towers over the banks of the Sabine River but after withstanding several major hurricanes and marsh fires it is in need of extensive restoration work.

NOW: Sabine Pass Lighthouse today
NOW: Sabine Pass Lighthouse today
Photo by Ian Wright

In 2001 the property was donated to the Cameron Preservation Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. Carolyn Thibodeaux, president of the alliance, stated that studies and plans have been conducted to restore the lighthouse and build a museum on the grounds but with an estimated cost of $10,000,000 funding has been a major challenge. In the past ten years Hurricanes Rita and Ike caused significant damage to the area and slowed down, but not stopped, the restoration efforts.

Despite the condition and remote location of the lighthouse it still holds interest among many. In 2009 the Sabine Pass Lighthouse was featured on a U.S. postage stamp and in 2012 a group from the U.S. Lighthouse Society visited the lighthouse.

After surviving several major hurricanes the lighthouse has become a symbol of strength and perseverance, representing the spirit of Cameron Parish and the surrounding area.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the restoration effort can mail their contribution to the Cameron Preservation Alliance P.O. Box 773 Cameron, LA 70632. Further information regarding the lighthouse can be found at the Johnson Bayou branch of the Cameron Parish Public Library.

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