Fort Proctor is a partially constructed nineteenth-century fortification that has suffered from more than a century of environment-related damage.
Situated on Lake Borgne near the mouth of Bayou Yscloskey in St. Bernard Parish, Fort Proctor is a partially built historic fort that was intended to serve as one of several federally planned fortifications in the New Orleans area following the War of 1812.¹ Construction of the brick masonry structure began in 1856 under the supervision of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, but three years later a hurricane delayed construction, and the start of the Civil War shortly thereafter caused additional delays.²Construction did not resume after the war ended, and the fort remained unfinished and open to the elements for more than a century.³ During that period of abandonment, much of the surrounding shoreline eroded, and Fort Proctor, which was originally constructed a few hundred feet inland, became isolated on a spit of marshland.⁴ Its isolation increased when the United States Army Corps of Engineers dredged the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet in the 1960s, introducing salt water from the Gulf of Mexico that further eroded the marsh.⁵ In September 1978, Fort Proctor was listed on the National Register of Historic Places primarily because of its innovative design, which included the use of structural iron and comfortable soldiers’ quarters.⁶ The following year, St. Bernard Parish legislators had the title of the privately owned fort transferred to the parish so that the structure could be shored.⁷
In the 1980s, there was discussion of restoring the fort to function as a tourist attraction or giving it to the National Park Service as part of Jean Lafitte National Park.⁸ However, these ideas were not implemented, and Fort Proctor continued to deteriorate. In 2012, a group of Louisiana State University students and faculty studied the fort to explore preservation methods of sites that are affected by severe weather changes and harsh environments.⁹ The students documented the site for the Historic American Buildings Survey and created a digital animation model showing environmental impacts over time.
1. Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “Fort Proctor,” National Register of Historic Places, September 20, 1978.
2. Taylor Alphonso et al, “Fort Proctor,” Historic American Buildings Survey, LA-199, Sheet 1, 2012.
4. Jua Nyla Hutchinson, “Time running out on piece of history,” The Times-Picayune, April 19, 1981.
5. Ursula McClure and Bradley Cantrell, “Fort Proctor: A Conditional Preservation” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Architectural Research Centers Consortium, March 27-30, 2013).
6. Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation, “Fort Proctor.”
7. Hutchinson, “Time running out on piece of history.”
8. Hutchinson, “Time running out on piece of history”; and Alex Martin, “Historian: Don’t let fort wash away,” The Times-Picayune, July 3, 1983.
9. McClure and Cantrell, “Fort Proctor”; and Alphonso et al, “Fort Proctor.”