June 6, 2002 - "History of Wooden Boats"

The rich history of the wooden boats which once sailed Lake Pontchartrain is celebrated in a new museum taking shape in Madisonville.

Frank Lewis never built a boat in his life. Now he's building one indoors.

"Well," he says, "I've got some blueprints here, but mainly the pictures which they have showed me." Frank is a roofer by trade. That's what he was doing when he got the call from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum. "They said they needed me to build a boat. I said OK, let's build a boat. So here I am."

So armed with blueprints, but mostly just those old pictures, Frank set to his task, saying, "I'll be a lot prouder knowing that I can do something like this. Like I say, I never dreamed of doing it, but it will make me happy, knowing that I can do it."

What is Frank up to? Nixon Adams of the museum board explains, "Frank is building one of our second phase displays here at the museum, which is a partial recreation of one of the paddle wheelers which use to ply the lakes and rivers of this area in the 19th Century."

From pirogue to skiff, lugger to schooner, the museum celebrates those old boats and what they did for Louisiana commerce and culture. Adams says, "It's trying to capture some history which is really being lost." -- but found on the banks of the Tchefuncte River -- where the wood meets the water.

They plan to have the second phase of the Maritime Museum finished in time for Madisonville's annual Wooden Boat Festival in September.