Thursday Doors – The Lockkeeper’s House

Lock Keeper's House
Today, the park maintenance staff stores stuff behind this historic door. I think it deserves better.

I did manage to get out in the light rain and walk around Washington, DC long enough to add to my stock of door photos. You’re probably thinking “you spent time walking around our Nation’s Capital and this is the door you came up with?

Yes, yes it is.

Actually, I took tons of pictures of doors, but this is my favorite for several reasons.

As the title implies, this is where the lockkeeper lived/worked as he collected tolls and recorded log entries on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O) Extension that connected with the Washington City Canal in 1833. You can read about the C&O Canal here and you can read more about The Lockkeeper’s House here, if you’re interested. I found this interesting for reasons others wouldn’t necessarily understand.

I live in Windsor Locks, CT. Windsor Locks is located at the southern terminus of the Windsor Locks Canal and, since the canal gains a few feet of elevation as it heads north beyond the Enfield Rapids, there is a lock in Windsor Locks and a Lockkeeper’s House. I think I’ll feature that next Thursday so I can keep this post short(er than I want, because I could write thousands of words about canals and locks). I digress.

The other thing I like about this house is that somebody thought to preserve it. I realize that it doesn’t look particularly well-preserved. That’s because the people who thought to preserve it, had that thought in 1903 when they converted the building into Park Police headquarters (the house sits on the northern edge of the National Mall). In the 1940s the first floor was made into a “public comfort station” – I like that expression, used by the National Park system, better than “restroom,” used by Wikipedia. Presently, the building is used for storage by the park maintenance staff.

The other reason I wanted to feature this building is because it seems to be falling into disrepair again. This bothers me. The C&O Canal has been preserved as a National Historic Park, but this seems to be all that remains of the connection to The Washington City Canal. That canal was filled in long ago. Federal office buildings and Constitution Avenue have been built over the trench. It’s gone. We They realized over 100 years ago that this building was worth preserving and yet we seem content to let it fall into a state where Congress will have to deliberate, delegate and appropriate in order to renovate (I’m on a roll here) a dilapidated building that could have been kept alive with a few replacement windows, a bit of mortar and a coat of paint on some doors and trim.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors series. A bunch of people share interesting doors. You can join too, Norm has made it easy.

67 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – The Lockkeeper’s House

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    1. Thanks. I tend to agree with you on both counts. Sadly, I wasn’t even able to get a picture of the White House door. Multiple security fences, security guards and privacy bush screens kept that a distant object. I have an old photo taken from higher ground in the park a few years ago. I guess I’ll have to use that if I ever want to feature that door.

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  1. I love old things, such as this beat up door, on a stone building from the 1830’s. This kinda makes me sad. Wouldn’t take but a few hundred dollars and some TLC. So much is the way of things, though. Great door :)

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Nice!!! It is a shame that most in this country, at least those who build and construct, believe in tearing down old to build new. More history IMO needs to be preserved. We are a relatively young country, so why are not more people trying to keep history intact? LOVE this door, by the way. It has character and then some, and the story you told for some unknown reason, really moved me. Thank you, Dan! Love, Amy <3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. I think someone who works as hard as you do to create beautiful things probably wants to see things maintained more than your average congressman who never lifted a shovel or a hammer. I’m sure that’s a generalization and I’m sure it’s unfair to some, but I’m guessing not most.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The mindset of most, Dan, sad to say, has no thought or respect or sentimental value for the past. New and bigger … that is the good ‘ole US of A. When I was in Europe, what really grabbed my attention, is how old the buildings are and just how gorgeous they are, how intriguing the forms. I walked into a few apartments aka homes, and contained within were marble floors, marble bathroom fixtures, columns, massive rooms with very high ceilings with ornate designs on them …. Just jaw dropping. Someday I really Dream of revisiting parts of Europe. Someday …… :)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great choice, Dan. Love this photo series. You can write and post as many photos as you want about locks, canals and the people who ferried them. I find them fascinating, being from Michigan where several sets of locks are still vital to trade and commerce.

    Like lighthouses, these lockkeepers houses are a slice of living history and, budgets notwithstanding, need to be preserved. Perhaps private historical foundations would care for them better than the feds.

    The C&O is a beautiful canal walk.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Sammy. As I was reading about the C&O, I was making a mental note to walk a portion of that at some point. Water transport was such an important force shaping the history of this country and it remains important today in a lot of places. As Amy pointed out, we’re a young country, we have the opportunity to preserve a lot of valuable history.

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  4. Congress will have to deliberate, delegate and appropriate in order to renovate

    Government thrives on constituency service. In most cases, this equates to “getting something done”. It is an age old dance, we petition them, they do things. It would be so much easier for all concerned, if they would simply legislate wisely and administer effectively – then broken windows would be replaced and peeling paint repaired.

    But that is not how government works, if it did we would complain, “it’s like they don’t DO anything.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the stone, and shape of this building too. Wonder if this wouldn’t make a good Eagle Scout Project? Painting, mortar, would be doable, but the window may pose more a problem and costly for that type of project. ??

    Hopefully it’s gets some TLC.

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    1. That’s a great idea Deborah. I would imagine there’s too much red tape for a Scout to cut through, but maybe the Park Service could package it as a ready-to-go project. When you consider how many places like this there are around the country, I think it’s time for some new ideas.

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  6. I really enjoyed your photos today, Dan. There’s just something captivating about old buildings. A sense of history permeates every brick and stone, and piece of wood. And that intangible quality, to me, is actually their tangibility. The building is HERE. It’s still standing. The is where people walked, where history happened. You can touch it, feel it, experience it. A rundown old building just begs the question, “If these walls could talk…” So for this reason, I’m going to have to disagree with you and the others and say that I think that the travesty would be in restoring this little piece of history.

    I have an upcoming post of my own that talks about my feelings on restoring paintings (and by the end of my comment, you’ll know where I stand on that!), and those same feelings extend to things like buildings as well. I most certainly understand YOUR feelings about wanting to see the place preserved. See some repair work done. Give it some of its glory back, so to speak, and keep it from crumbling into nothing. And a part of me is cheering right along with you. And yes, granted, it HAS already had some work done to it in the past, buuuut….. for me, it’s those broken, boarded up windows and peeling paint which give the building its character. You look at that weather/time-worn old door and you can imagine every hand that’s ever pushed it open, or pulled it closed. That door survived some of the most historic days that America has had. It was there, and bought the t-shirt! The essence of time and history ARE that peeling paint. Could you really strip it all off and give it fresh coat? I feel that would somehow rob the building of its battle scars — scars that it has fought hard for. Think of everything it’s seen! If it was all cleaned up, jazzed up, and perfect… I don’t know. I just don’t think it would still have the same appeal. Or the same sense of history in it.

    If you paint over top of a Da Vinci painting, is it still a painting by Da Vinci…? I don’t think it is. I will say that there is a line between “restoration” and “preservation” though. I’ve never liked the idea of altering the original — replacing the old with something new — but when something can be done to simply stop further degradation, then I’m ALL for that. So maybe there’s a compromise to be had somewhere for the Lock Keeper’s House.

    My soapbox and I will leave quietly now, (sorry! :P) but let me say that this might be my favourite door post yet (even though it was more about the building as a whole rather than just the door). Again, the pics were all really nice. I think sometimes a subject that’s kinda plain and not all spiffed up can make for the most interesting photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Wendy. I don’t think you and I are too far apart. I don’t envision white vinyl replacement windows, but I want to see something that keeps the rain and the birds out. A coat of paint on the wood trim will keep the wood trim stable and let it survive another decade. If this were your house, being passed down through generations, you would paint the door every so many years. Without the paint, the wood will rot and then you need someone who can “restore” the original profiles and so on. Preservation is ongoing and keeps the building alive. Restoration is a post mortem operation, and we should not let this building get to the point where it needs that.

      As for paintings, I’m not sure I know where I stand. I don’t understand restoration well enough to know what they do and how they do it and whether or not I’d rather it not be done. I look forward to your post on the subject.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed, Dan. And I think you’ve hit on the real solution here: Preservation is something that needs to start immediately so you never get to that “complete restoration” stage where it starts to feel like you’re losing the integrity of the original building. Up here, they salvage NOTHING like this. When a building gets old and is no longer ‘useful’? They just tear it down. And that honestly makes me kinda sad.

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        1. We do a lot of that here too Wendy. I met with a man who works a few blocks from this building. He works in a building that was built in the 80s and is “old” and is going to be torn down in 2016 so they can build something “modern.” That building is across the street from a Federal Office building built in the 30s! It’s sad. At that rate, we will end up with nothing to represent the period between the 30s and whatever is current time.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice to see another familiar door, Dan! I’ve passed this particular entry many times here in D.C. I really like the character that surrounds and permeates old buildings such as this. Nothing like it is even built today, which is why (especially in the case of something historically significant) we should make every effort to preserve, restore and protect our past.

    Nothing overdone, of course – like our mutual friend, Wendy, suggests above, to ADD anything would be going too far. But without fresh paint now and then, and other simple restorative measures, the elements will rob us of these unique buildings. And let’s face it – too many people are ignorant enough of history as it is without letting it literally crumble around us. So thanks for featuring the old Lock House!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked this Paul. I worry about writing about stuff in other people’s back yards, especially when I know they are following me. I think you and I might be able to team up and get Wendy to back away from the edge on this. We aren’t talking about wholesale Home Depot style upgrade here, just keep the water out and protect the wood. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Great choice as usual Dan. Such a shame when important pieces of our history slip through the cracks and are neglected like this. I hope someone takes the initiative to get this place the little bit TLC that it needs.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I thought the door didn’t look too bad in the first photo by itself. But then, seeing the windows and the entire building…..what a shame. Does it not have enough history? Not enough good history? It almost looks like ‘they’ are letting it get to the point of ‘being beyond repair’ and ‘it’d cost more to repair than rebuild.’ Great post, Dan. Hope your congressman reads it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It troubles me when a historic landmark falls on disrepair, Dan. I do like worn and weathered looking details so am like you, liking the door despite myself. It makes me examine the beautiful stone masonry :)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Maybe because I am from a place where old is common, I always fall for such buildings and doors. The weathered look has lots of appeal, but it’s hard to maintain the proper balance between character and abandonned. So it would be wonderful to see this house restored without taking away its old age. Great pics, Dan.

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  12. I love the pictures you took and I wouldn’t mind if I get something like that to stay for the rest of my life. Better than the glass buildings that are mushrooming all over the cities. You know I once had a lunch conversation about glass buildings and I said that its funny that corporates and multinationals prefer to have their offices in glass buildings that symbolizes transparency, but a lot of the politics and matters are always under the carpet, never transparent. Funny human nature I suppose.

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