New Canal Lighthouse prepares to re-open with new mission - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

New Canal Lighthouse prepares to re-open with new mission

New Orleans, La. -

After a long battle from the hurricane's destruction, the iconic New Canal Lighthouse at West End opens to the public this weekend.

It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put the pieces back together but it's back, perhaps better than before and with a new mission.

It is the fourth lighthouse to be built at West End, and architect Glenn Hibbins is ecstatic. "We all got involved in this, and took it to our hearts and did it," he said.

For an overall cost of about $1 million, the iconic guardian of the New Orleans lakefront will reopen this weekend as the new home of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.  It has been renamed the New Canal Lighthouse Museum and Education Center.

It's now 17 feet above sea level, and rebuilt with many of the old materials.

The lighthouse is seen as a key piece of a lakefront puzzle disassembled by Katrina.  New restaurants such as Brisby's and The Blue Crab are opening nearby in a few weeks, run by Kent Burgess.  He's the former owner of the classic Sid Mar restaurant, destroyed nearly eight years ago.

"I'm super excited. It's been a long time coming," Burgess said.

Most of the old boathouses are back, but West End remains a work in progress. The old boat launch and fishing pier still lie in ruins.

Then there's the old restaurant row. Ten restaurants and bars used to sit out here but were all destroyed by Katrina.  Since then, nothing much has happened.

"I don't know if the restaurants will ever come back to the same height. It's very difficult to do that," said Hibbins.

Though some parts of West End may never return, the New Canal Lighthouse, perhaps the lakefront's most important structure, is back.

"It's taken a few years, but we've got this one back, and it's going to stay," said Burke.

And the public will get its chance to begin enjoying it in its new mission this weekend.

The new lighthouse is much more than just a pretty place. Its entire history and the history of West End is laid out in the new museum on the second floor. It will be open to the general public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and for tours and functions, the rest of the week.

FOX 8 owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle were among those who gave donations to help rebuild the lighthouse.

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