Dilapidated House in the Shadow of the Washington Monument to be Reimagined as Gateway to National Mall
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 9, 2014) – American Express today announced a $1 million grant to the Trust for the National Mall to preserve and restore the 178-year old Lockkeeper’s House, the oldest existing structure on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Lockkeeper’s House stands as a rare artifact of early 19th-century Washington, D.C. when commerce was conducted via a system of canals designed to transport goods connecting the Capital to the Nation. The House has been boarded up for more than 40 years and is in a state of extreme disrepair, despite its prominent location near the iconic Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street, NW.
As part of the grant funding from American Express, the Lockkeeper’s House will be lifted and moved back approximately 32 feet, away from the road and heavy street traffic. In addition, the grant will fund extensive interior and exterior restoration, including energy-efficient mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems making the Lockkeeper’s House the first site on the National Mall to incorporate the latest technology and materials to ensure environmental sustainability. The restoration will allow the Lockkeeper’s House to function as a much-needed educational space for the 29 million annual visitors to the National Mall.
“Historic places, like the Lockkeeper’s House, help us unlock our rich cultural and commercial past,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “We are proud to join the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service to preserve the Lockkeeper’s House and create a space for future generations to learn and grow from our country’s history.”
“Today’s announcement is a great example of how public-private partnerships can successfully preserve our national landmarks,” said Caroline Cunningham, founding president of the Trust for the National Mall. “This often overlooked historic building is on one of the most prominent corners in America’s most visited national park. Now thanks to the generosity of American Express, the Lockkeeper’s House will have yet another life as a gateway to one of the most visited areas of the National Mall, and a visible reminder of the Capital City’s past.”
Built as both a home and workplace, the Lockkeeper’s House served the lock that connected the Washington branch of the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal and Washington City Canal that ran parallel to where the National Mall is now. The house was operated by a lockkeeper between 1835 and 1873 who collected tolls, kept trade records and operated the lock gates to allow for the passage of canal barges transporting heavy goods from the interior of the United States. When the C&O Canal was replaced by railways and the canals were filled, the Lockkeeper's House was no longer needed. The House was further isolated from the Potomac River at the turn of the century during a reclamation project that created Potomac Park, the site of the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool. In 1902, ownership of the house was transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers, who used the building as a watchman’s house and tool shed. More recently, the National Park Service (NPS) used it at various times as a storage facility and as a location for public restrooms. In the 1970s, the building was closed to the public and fell into a state of disrepair.
With a long history of philanthropy, American Express is deeply committed to historic preservation, providing more than $50 million in grants to preserve historic places globally. In 2014 alone, nearly $3.5 million has gone to preserve historic places throughout the world as part of American Express’ partnerships with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund, including projects at Güell Pavilions in Barcelona, Union Station in Washington, D.C., Nantucket Lightship in Boston and Fundidora Park in Monterrey.
American Express’ gift is the latest donation to the two-phased revitalization of Constitution Gardens – a 38-acre site between the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that is home to several restoration projects including the Lockkeeper’s House, a poorly functioning lake and a shaded, but stunted natural landscape.
To learn more about the Trust’s Campaign for the National Mall, the largest public-private partnership in the history of the National Park Service and the scope of the Constitution Gardens restoration, please click here.
About American Express
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About the Trust for the National Mall
The Trust for the National Mall is the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to restoring and improving the National Mall, while providing new educational and volunteer opportunities that connect the park’s 29 million annual visitors to the National Mall’s rich history. For more information on the Trust for the National Mall, please visit www.nationalmall.org
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