MADISONVILLE, LA (WVUE) - Built 185 years ago, the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse has stood tall over more than 67,000 sunsets.
"This lighthouse was built before the Civil War in 1832," said John Ammerman with the Lake Pontchartrain Maritime Museum.
From a distance, the structure looks strong, but the ravages of time and weather, vandals and war have taken their toll.
"The locals were up in the top trying to shoot at them, and the Union brought in a cannon and blew it up," Ammerman said.
There haven't been any lighthouse keepers here since the Great Depression, but Ammerman may be the next best thing.
"What's happened here is erosion on the land which used to turn the river to the east," Ammerman said.
The tower used to be accessible by land, but Ammerman took us there by boat due to erosion.
"We've got to do some coastal restoration here to protect the rest of this," he said.
At the lighthouse, you can see where bricks have softened and crumbled over the years. Hurricanes took away the stairs and vandals pulled down a massive iron door. But this labor of love operated by the Lake Pontchartrain Maritime Museum is showing renewed strength.
"We've been in the lighthouse restoration business for 25 years," said lighthouse expert Gary Knappenberger.
Museum operators have brought in one of the country's foremost lighthouse restoration experts to repair stairs and replace the door and 10 missing panes of glass at the top of the tower. The new ones are impact-resistant.
"Now the upper part is watertight, and this will keep the water from deteriorating the iron and the brickwork," said Knappenberger.
The Maritime Museum has big plans for this unique landmark, but for now, at least, the old Madisonville lighthouse should be able to continue standing watch for decades to come.
The Pontchartrain Maritime Museum has plans to build land and a breakwater to protect the river and the lighthouse and improve access to the site. They are currently searching for funds for the project and are in the process of setting up a gofundme account.