Historic Lockkeeper's House relocated as part of major restoration project

The Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service relocated the Lockkeeper’s House, the oldest structure on the National Mall, as part of a major restoration project that will transform the historic structure into a new educational site on the National Mall.

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The Lockkeeper's House — the oldest structure on the National Mall — has been relocated as part of a major restoration project that will transform the site with a new visitor-friendly entrance, surrounding outdoor plaza and educational displays.

Untouched for more than 40 years, the 180-year old structure will soon welcome visitors from around the world to the National Mall.

The Lockkeeper's House is a gateway between the city to the north and landscapes of the National Mall to the south, east and west, making it the ideal venue to showcase the story of commerce, development and sustainability on the National Mall.

“From the relocated and restored Lockkeeper’s House, we not only have space to welcome visitors to Constitution Gardens and the National Mall, but we will also be able to tell the stories of Washington’s early history and those who helped build the nation’s capital,” said Cassius Cash, acting superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks. “This project demonstrates yet again that the model public-private partnership of the National Park Service and the Trust for the National Mall is the key to a lasting, thriving National Mall.”

Moving the Historic Structure

As part of a holistic restoration, stone from the house has been repointed and repaired. The weight of the house was reduced by removing the stone chimneys and selectively demolishing non-historic portions of the interior. As a foundation was laid for the new location, the historic structure was braced with multiple beams along the length and width of the house. Engineers carefully identified select stones along the bottom four feet of the house suitable for removal to insert the support beams. Concrete blocks were temporarily installed in the windows and doors to help maintain the structural integrity of the house.

Using a hydraulic system, the house was lifted approximately two feet, and four dollies were positioned to the support beams near each corner of the house. Operated by a remote control, the dolly system moved simultaneously to roll the house approximately 36 feet to the south and then 35 feet to the west. Aligned with the new foundation, the house was lowered to approximately 18 inches above the foundation. Over the coming weeks, the bottom of the house will be carefully rebuilt to reinsert the stones that were removed. Removed stones have been carefully catalogued and inventoried.

History of the Lockkeeper’s House

Over the past 184 years, the Lockkeeper’s House has been a humble witness to our nation’s history. In the early 1800s, George Washington advocated for canals in the capital city and believed they were essential for the economy and fundamental to our nationhood. Finished in 1833, the house sat at the intersection of what used to be the C&O Canal and the Washington Canal, where the Lockkeeper collected tolls and kept trade records for merchandise that entered the city. Over the years, the Lockkeeper’s House evolved to meet the needs of the times – serving as a tool shed for park staff, a watchman’s lodge, and even a temporary holding cell for Park Police.

Untouched for more than 40 years, the Lockkeeper’s House will soon have the opportunity to welcome visitors from around the world. With a new outdoor plaza and interior exhibits expected to be complete in early 2018, the Lockkeeper’s House will be repurposed into an educational and visitor contact site on the National Mall.

Supporting the National Mall

By preserving the Lockkeeper’s House, we are choosing to save a critical part of our shared history. Limited public funds are not sufficient to relocate and restore this humble structure on the National Mall. This project has been funded through private donations. Generous support has been received from S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Volkswagen Group of America, American Express Company, Clark Charitable Foundation, Dr. Scholl Foundation, the Honorable C. Boyden Gray, and others.