Madisonville is located at on the banks of the Tchefunke River near where the river enters Lake Pontchartrain. Founded by in 1800, as the town of Coquille or Cokie because of the abundance of shells in the area, at the site of the Native American village of Chiconcte. The town was later renamed after President Madison.
Frederick (Fritz) Jahncke emigrated from Germany in 1870. After working as a mason, he started a business that built the first sidewalks in New Orleans. Using a rented steam-driven hydraulic suction dredge, his firm was the first to extract sand and shell from the Tchefuncte and other rivers to make concrete used in expanding New Orleans.
Shipbuilding the company started building five wooden ships for the US Navy. Two ships were completed – the SS Bayou Teche and the SS Balabac – before the end of WWI.
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway links Madisonville with New Orleans
The Story of Mobility in America
Maritime Museums in Historic Towns
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum is located on the banks of the scenic Tchefuncte River in Madisonville. The museum brings Louisiana’s maritime history to life through unique interpretive programs, exhibits, and publications. These programs include the time-honored craft of boat building, hands-on field trips, constructing underwater robots, restoration of the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse, and other exciting educational opportunities for people of all ages.
A Historic Journey through Maritime Louisiana
The Wooden Boat Festival, the premier annual event on the Tchefuncte River, features over 100 wooden and classic boats. From canoes to pirogues, from bateaux to steamboats, Louisiana’s unique maritime history and culture has it all. Native Americans, European explorers, and early settlers depended upon Louisiana’s extensive bayous, rivers, and lakes as the pathways of survival, linking the interior with the sea.
The Museum features unique exhibits that illustrate the innovation, creativity, and perseverance of Louisiana’s people, concentrating on the maritime history of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, the lower Mississippi River Valley, and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. Lifelike examples of native Louisiana plants and animals can be seen in the museum’s exhibits. Other exhibits:
Secret Weapon! Civil War Submarine, the Pioneer
Canals of New Orleans
Lighthouses of Louisiana
Wood and Water, a Celebration of Louisiana Boatbuilding
The Steamboat Era
Waterways to Railways II
The Tchefuncte River Light Station is a symbol of the dynamic maritime history and culture of Louisiana. The original tower was badly damaged during the Civil War and was rebuilt in 1867-1868 on the same foundation using many of the same bricks. The Light Station, its keepers, and their families weathered many hurricanes until 1939 when it was automated by the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1999 the property was transferred to the Town of Madisonville and continues to serve the community as a private aid to navigation and as an icon of Southeast Louisiana.
Connect for Travel to Madisonville and Louisiana