Today the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service marked the official opening of the restored Lockkeeper’s House with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The oldest structure on the National Mall has been the subject of a major restoration project for the past year and a half that has transformed the house into an educational and visitor contact location on the National Mall, showcasing the history of civics, commerce, development, and ecology on the storied site. Untouched for more than 40 years, the house is now open to visitors as a gateway to the National Mall, with planned hours of operations to include Monday through Thursday from 1–4 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
“The reopening of the Lockkeeper’s House signals the transformative power of public-private partnership to deliver a world-class visitor experience on the National Mall,” said Trust for the National Mall President & CEO, Catherine Townsend. “Without private donations, this historic restoration project would not have been possible. More work is needed across the park to address critical upgrades. We invite the public to join with us to lend support to our patriotic mission.”
More than 100 supporters were on-hand for a brief press conference featuring remarks from U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2), Destination DC President & CEO Elliott Ferguson, Acting Superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks Patricia Trap, and Trust for the National Mall Chairman John E. “Chip” Akridge and President & CEO Townsend. Third grade students from Aiton Elementary were the first school group to tour the new site with a park ranger.
“The National Mall is one of the most important cultural landscapes in our country, every corner telling a different part of the story of the people and places who have shaped our collective history. The opening of the relocated and restored Lockkeeper’s House provides a new opportunity for interpretation featuring not only the the stories of Washington’s early history but also a dynamic look at how much the landscape has changed over the years,” said Trap, the park’s acting superintendent. “We are grateful to our partners at the Trust for the National Mall for bringing the resources and expertise to the park that have created a new visitor experience.”
Relocating and Restoring the Lockkeeper’s House
For more than 20 months, the Trust for the National Mall led a team of architects, engineers, developers, construction workers, and historic preservation specialists to complete a holistic restoration of the historic house. First, the weight of the house was reduced by selectively demolishing non-historic portions of the interior. As a foundation was laid for the new location, the structure was braced with multiple beams along the length and width of the house. Concrete blocks were temporarily installed in the windows and doors to help maintain the structural integrity of the house.
Last October, the house was moved approximately 36 feet to the south and then 35 feet to the west using a hydraulic system. Aligned with the new foundation, the bottom of the house was carefully rebuilt. All stones were cleaned and repointed with new mortar created using samples of the original mortar. The roof was replaced with new cedar shingles and the fireplaces and chimneys were reconstructed using historic brick, restoring the structure back to its original design. A new plaza with seating walls was constructed and the landscape reinvigorated with a 25-foot tall willow oak tree and perennial plantings. Granite stones were installed in the sidewalks and street to outline the two previous locations of the house, bringing forward that piece of history into the contemporary visitor experience.
The inside of the house was finished with a polished cement floor, wood frame windows, and large oak doors with wrought iron details. Temporary educational boards have been installed to educate visitors on the history and future of the site. Permanent digital educational displays are in development now.
Supporting the National Mall
By preserving the Lockkeeper’s House, we have chosen to save a critical part of our shared history. Limited public funds were not sufficient to relocate and restore this humble structure on the National Mall. This project has been funded through private donations with generous support from S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Volkswagen Group of America, Akridge Family Foundation, American Express Company, A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, Dr. Scholl Foundation, the Honorable C. Boyden Gray, and others.
Photos: Joy Asico Photography