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Benjamin Latrobe's Designs for a Lighthouse at the Mouth of the Mississippi River

Michael W. Fazio
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Vol. 48, No. 3 (Sep., 1989), pp. 232-247
DOI: 10.2307/990429
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/990429
Page Count: 16
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Benjamin Latrobe's Designs for a Lighthouse at the Mouth of the Mississippi River
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Abstract

In this paper I have considered four lighthouse designs by Benjamin Latrobe in an effort to recreate his design process. This examination provides insights into his thinking about structure and form and their interrelationship during the final phase of his career in and around New Orleans. A lighthouse was eventually constructed, but it collapsed. I argue that Latrobe, inspired by the work of his former employer, John Smeaton, developed structural innovations which should have guaranteed the stability of his tower, but that ignorance and faulty workmanship on the part of others led to its destabilization. The form of the tower can be viewed superficially in the context of French Neoclassical models. However, Latrobe did not draw directly upon such models; instead he developed a unique conception through a distinctive series of logical design decisions. The result was intended to be not only an aid to navigation but also a great symbol of the wresting of the Louisiana Territory from the French and of the emerging status of New Orleans as the primary port of entry in the United States.

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