Oldest building on National Mall opens after renovation

WASHINGTON — Whether you’re walking on the National Mall or waiting for the light at the intersection, you’ve probably seen that structure on the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue and wondered, “What is that?”

Now you can learn what lies inside the Lockkeeper’s House. The National Park Service officially opened the renovated building Tuesday. Built in 1837, it is the oldest structure on the National Mall.

“This little house has been a witness to history and it is ready to tell those stories,” said Catherine Townsend with the Trust for the National Mall.

Part of the renovation included moving the structure a few feet from where it was, safely away from traffic across 17th Street and the Washington Monument.

Other work done, according to the Trust for the National Mall, included securing the stones along the bottom of the house, putting in new cedar shingles on the roof and rebuilding the chimneys with locally sourced historic bricks.

Granite stones on the sidewalk marked the two previous locations of the house. There is also a new plaza with seating walls.

Townsend said that permanent displays will be forthcoming, and park rangers will give tours on the history of the building.

According to National Park Service, the Lockkeeper’s House is the only remnant of the C&O Canal Extension, which was used to connect the Washington City Canal and the C&O Canal in the early 1830s. Then, the person who manned the lock to the house collected tolls and kept records of trade on the canal, the park service said. In the 1900s, the Lockkeeper’s House was used as Park Police headquarters and for park maintenance storage.


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