Historic Fort Pike has sustained significant hurricane damage and continues to be vulnerable to future natural disasters and neglect.
Located in New Orleans East where Lake Pontchartrain meets the Rigolets Pass, historic Fort Pike was completed around 1826 as part of a federal effort to fortify the nation’s coasts after the War of 1812.¹ It is an irregularly shaped masonry structure that retains its central open court with a partial citadel, interior spaces connected by arched passages, and an upper rampart.² During the Civil War, Union troops seized the fort and used it as a training ground for former slaves who became part of the United States Colored Troops.³ The fort had little practical use after the war ended and it was abandoned in 1890.⁴ In November 1934, it was declared a state monument, and,in August 1972, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.⁵
Fort Pike has been heavily damaged by hurricanes and subsequently repaired several times, particularly since the turn of the twenty-first century. In 2005 it was fully submerged by Hurricane Katrina floodwaters, and in 2007 the Civil War Preservation Trust included it, along with Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, on a list of the ten most endangered battlefields in the United States.⁶ It was reopened in 2008 after extensive repairs, but damage from Hurricane Gustav (2008) and Hurricane Isaac (2012) necessitated further closures and repairs.⁷ The site was finally open again in July 2013 but, in February 2015, budget cuts forced the state to lay off staff and close Fort Pike to the public indefinitely.⁸
1. Louisiana Department of Cultural, Recreation, and Tourism, “Fort Pike State Historic Site: Overview.”
2. Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “Fort Pike,” National Register of Historic Places, August 14, 1972. [link: http://www.crt.state.la.us/dataprojects/hp/nhl/view.asp]
3. Louisiana Department of Cultural, Recreation, and Tourism, “Fort Pike State Historic Site: Overview.”
5. Louisiana Department of Cultural, Recreation, and Tourism, “Fort Pike State Historic Site: Overview”; and Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “Fort Pike.”
6. Kia Hall Hayes, “Historic Fort Pike Battles Back,” nola.com, January 20, 2008.
7.Kia Hall Hayes, “Storm-battered Fort Pike to open Friday,” nola.com, June 11, 2009; and NOLA Community, “Fort Pike State Historic Site to reopen July 2 in eastern New Orleans,” nola.com, June 25, 2013.
8. Faimon A. Roberts III, “Louisiana closes unique Fort Pike to visitors, lays off staff amid budget cuts,” theneworleansadvocate.com, February 3, 2015.