Pleasant Update

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The portion of the post that follows was originally published in June 2015 after I returned from a business trip to Washington, DC (US Capital). I was looking for a post to rerun next week, our Thanksgiving holiday. I want to put a post up, but I won’t be able to pay much attention to the blog. While I was looking around, I saw this building and decided to check on its status. At the time of the original post, its fate was far from certain. Happily, I discovered that:

In 2018, the Lockkeeper’s House, a critical piece of our shared American history on the National Mall, was restored and carefully relocated to its new site by the Trust for the National Mall in partnership with the National Park Service. The project, supported by private funding from Trust partners and supporters, breathed new life into the oldest existing structure on the National Mall, which was first built in 1837.

Read the story of the restoration here: Trust for the National Mall

From the original post…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.

I wish I had new photos (there are some at the National Mall link) but I hope to visit Washington, DC again as a tourist, perhaps in 2023.

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  1. How sad it looks! We do have to wonder why a little care along the way wasn’t given. Its symmetry and stone keep it proud, though. I must confess to a laugh-out-loud when I read your “on a roll” writer’s aside. A non-writer would never understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even in its present dilapidated state, I think the Lock Keepers House is beautiful. I think it’s thumbing its nose at all those who continue to leave it in disrepair…like it’s trying to hold itself together until somebody wakes up and offers a helping hand.

    This state of disrepair, especially in a place where we expect history to be preserved, is unforgivable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dan,
    I finally made it back with a new doors post following up from the Tiny House Expo:
    I loved your rustic photos of the rustic original and the restoration work which was done, which looks spectacular but it would’ve been wonderful to have the luxury and having both the before and after standing side-by-side. I love photographing old dilapidated buildings which have so much character, although they also need to be preserved, especially this one given its historical significance.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Dan,
    That’s a lot of interesting history. I read the notes too when I visit a place. Only, I never seem to remember. Those doors look like they are in serious need of repair but I think there is something very attractive about old, rusted doors. It adds a sense of mystery to them. However, unfortunately, if it is not maintained, it will not be long before it wears off completely and will no longer stand.
    I hope the gates have been painted and you get to visit the place, as planned, in 2023.

    Here’s my share for the week –

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is beyond my understand, Dan, that this country in particular has very little interest in preserving history. When I visited Italy what most impressed me was the fact I was touching, experiencing and seeing structures that were centuries old. How sad Americans in general have the attitude “if it’s old, get rid of it so we can build new”. Thank you for showing us this historical building and it is my hope that with the near future approaching and what all will unfold, that as a consequence people will realize just how important our “real” history is.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The restoration turned out beautifully! I’m glad the realization came to be that there was too much history to let this building go into decline.
    You might have been on a roll, but it was a good one because it happened!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. An interesting bit of history … and a well done promo to bring attention to needing to preserve it. For us in the US, this is an old building, but here’s what gets to me. When traveling in Europe, now that old … real old … at least much older than what we have …. and they preserve it. I love being in the old sectors of a city … old towns and villages too. I’m not saying Europeans don’t have buildings in dispair, but they seem to do a much better job of preserving the past while still using it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Removed from the government and placed in the hands of a private agency seems like all that was needed, John. This building has a new life in a new place on The Mall and should stand for many years to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow… those are some OLD windows and doors. And I read all of those signboards as well. How can you learn about a place without reading the displays??? Seeing that shrinking mortar between the stone blocks is a bit fascinating… like a gingerbread house that’s sat out and the filling has shrunk. Thanks for this…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a beautiful noble little neglected building. I love the structure work and, yes, new paint and hinge replacement on the windows would do wonders! Bureaucracy and red tape are the nemesis of progress, Dan. 😞

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, you are right, Dan. This little house shows lots of potential. Its size would allow for a restoration that wouldn’t cost a fortune. I’m sure it will be done eventually. I just hope they don’t use too striking colours for it. I quite like its present colour scheme.

    On my blog it’s the end of the line for the Ischia di Castro doors. Only the caves remain (which I imagine were Etruscan but I could also be lying) and they have no doors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The restoration cost $6 million, but that included moving the building to a more prominent place on the National Mall. You can now visit and go inside. I hope to do that on my next visit.

      You finished up with some wonderful doors. Thanks, as always for contributing such beautiful photos to Thursday Doors.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you like it, Teagan. I look for stories about the places I’ve featured. I wasn’t looking for this, but I stumbled onto it and I was happy to see that they did right by this little building. I hope to get back for a visit and see it in person.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know exactly about the stones, but given how long ago the house was built, I doubt they were scavenged. I’ll hazard a guess they they were taken from stones removed while digging the canal.

      Your post today was very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I, too, love old structures, Gwen. I’m so glad this one has been preserved and placed in a prominent location. Many towns along the Connecticut River are rich sources of historic buildings.


  11. Hi Dan – I hope the organisation that runs and owns it now appreciates its history … as you say it could be an interesting building … a cafe, small heritage museum, and comfort break area as it’s on the canal – who knows! Cheers and I hope someone takes care of it – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Like you, I can see beyond, and know what the building was (and can be). The stone work is beautiful, and not common in New England. I have a warm spot in my heart for the C&O and the B&O. Huntington, WV had both lines. Do you remember the cat in the logo?

    Liked by 1 person

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