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You can now visit the oldest structure on the National Mall

The 540-square-foot lockkeeper's house was first built in 1837.

WASHINGTON — The oldest existing structure on the National Mall is now back open for visitors!

The Lockkeeper's House sits on the corner of 17th and Constitution Avenue, and it has a lot of history. It's 185 years old and it once served as the home of a canal lock tender.

Following a restoration project by the Trust for the National Mall, which included moving the house approximately 36 feet to the south and then 35 feet to the west using a hydraulic system, the house now serves as the gateway to the National Mall. 

According to the National Park Service, tours of the small but mighty house happen daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include an immersive multimedia program to introduce you to the evolution and growth of the National Mall. It also includes information about the lockkeeper who collected tolls and managed traffic along the C&O Canal in the 1800s.

Originally constructed in 1837 after George Washington advocated for canals in the nation's capital, the lockkeeper's house sat at the intersection of what used to be the C&O Canal and the Washington Canal. The lockkeeper kept records of merchandise that entered the city. 

Over the years the canals were filled, and the house evolved to meet the needs of the city. The Trust for the National Mall says the house was also used as a tool shed for park staff, a watchman’s lodge, and even a temporary holding cell for the Park Police. 

The 540-square-foot house stood neglected for 40 years prior to the Trust for the National Mall's work to restore the building, which began in 2018. The Trust spent $6 million to transform the house into an educational opportunity. 

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