Moving the Lock Keeper’s House and the Constitution Garden Improvement Phase I
Articles,  Blog

Moving the Lock Keeper’s House and the Constitution Garden Improvement Phase I

Good afternoon. My name is Diana Warring
and I’m the Director of the Interior Museum, and it’s my pleasure to have you
all here this afternoon for the latest installment of our monthly lecture
series. As many of you know, these lectures encompass a wide range of
topics – historical, environmental, scientific – to reflect the diverse
workings of our bureaus and the Department of the Interior as a whole,
past and present. A quick bit of housekeeping before we get started is
that on your seats you’ll all find a feedback form. We encourage you to fill
these out and deposit them on the tray outside in conclusion of the lecture.
Your input is really important and really helps us make this a well-rounded
series, and make it the best that it can be. In terms of lectures coming up, our
October lecture is BOEM’s Chief of Marine Minerals Division. He’ll be
speaking on the development of the National Offshore Sand Inventory, and in
November our own Chief Curator Tracy Baetz will be presenting on American
Indian and Alaskan Natives and how they’ve made a direct and lasting
contribution to the appearance of the headquarters building. But turning to
today’s presentation – if you’re like me, you’ve watched in fascination over the
past year or so as the Lockkeeper’s House, the National Mall’s oldest extant
structure, has undergone a magical transformation. It’s a story that’s
literally not only intersected 17th Street and Constitution Avenue but
also is at the intersection of engineering and landscape architecture.
Here to tell you about this extraordinary project is Yue Li. She
holds Master’s degrees in Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture, and has
nearly 30 years of professional experience spanning the private practice,
commercial firms, and most recently, with the National Park Service as a
Senior Landscape Architect. Some of her major projects here with the National
Park Service to date and are involved with improvements to the Lincoln
Memorial, George Mason Memorial, and the planned Eisenhower Memorial. Please join
me in welcoming Yue Li. Thank you Diana. Thank you everybody for coming.
I see a lot of gray and green uniforms, and a lot of familiar faces, I really appreciate your
interest to this project. So Diana already introduced me, I guess I don’t
have to say much for my background. I started in National Park Service two years
ago, almost two years ago, and the Constitution Garden project is one of
the projects that I was assigned to work on, initially. I started in November of
2016 and this project, Lockkeeper’s House, started in December, just a
month later. The project is really part of the larger Constitution Garden
improvement – we call that phase one. It is in a key location, it costs a lot of
time, money, and effort to build it. So far actually we know the total cost for the
project is $6 million and the hard cost for construction is $4.9 million.
It took almost two years: we started in December, mobilized the
contractor, now we’re talking about mid-September opening. So you can see
it’s like 21 months altogether to finish this project. So these two pictures were
taken a few years ago, and although I think people in the room would all
recognize – on the right is 56 Signers Island in the Constitution Lake, and
on the left is the Lockkeeper House before we moved it. But those scenes
are not very familiar for visitors who come from different cities of the United
States, or international visitors. This place is not well known for
outside visitors, and is kind of under-utilized. So for a lot of people,
actually including myself, before working on this project, would ask why we want
to take such a big effort to move a little house like this 50 feet. It is
the first building on the Mall that currently is existing. If you see this
timeline – upper left corner – is the Capitol building when it just starts moving in
and is built. In 1800, when the United States moved the capital city from Philadelphia to
Washington, DC, there are two major buildings in the area, one is the
Capitol, one is the White House. Those two buildings, actually, those are the
original shape and look, and eventually they went through a lot of modifications
and additions, especially for the Capitol, it was enlarged a lot and changed.
And then the next will be this Lockkeeper House, that was built 1837. Compare the
time, the age of those buildings, though, the Washington Monument was done
partially in 1848 and it’s finished – took another 30 some, 40 years to finish. And
the Smithsonian was built in 1849 – they’re all later than the Lockkeeper house, and then
the Capitol dome was added in 1863. And all the other memorials and important
buildings like the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, they were all built
in the 20th century when we had those reclaimed lands created. So as its name
suggests, Lockkeeper House is for the lockkeeper’s family to live in. The
lockkeeper’s task or duty was to open and close the waterway gate, record the
trading – you know, the boat goods on the boats – and collect
tolls. But then the question is, why is it located here at the corner of 17th
Street and Constitution Avenue? Here are some old maps, in the 1850s. The
map, actually this map, shows two canals already in this map, one was
built 1818 – let me see if I got the date – one was
built in 1815, finished the canal – the Washington canal – that connects
to the James Creek here, and leading the boat to the city of Washington at the
time, and connects to the Pepper Creek of the Potomac. So what it does is it
brings goods from the Anacostia River through the city of Washington
at the time and connect to the Potomac River. And in 1828 the C&O
Canal that intended to connect Washington Canal to the west of the city through
Georgetown and eventually go to Ohio River, a portion of that was built, and
in 1832, two of those canals connected. And where it’s connected, at this spot is here.
Right now, we call that 17th Street Wharf. It is, at the time, it was the
largest wharf in the city of Washington, so it’s bringing a lot of boats and has a
lot of trading business there. So the Lockkeeper House is somehow,
probably is here – nobody can locate it accurately on
this particular map, but we know it’s at the wharf and where the two canals
intersect. This 1860-61 map showing that the dome was added to the
Capitol, the canal – Washington Canal – is clearly illustrated here, the Washington
Monument is still half way, or not even half way, it’s a very short
stamp, and then Smithsonian was built at the time. The canal didn’t work too well and the
railway comes and goes, instead of going through the canal system,
C&O canal and the Washington canal, they start to use railway to ship goods and
everything, so the canal kind of lost its intended function, eventually it becomes
a recreational water channel or waterway. In the meantime, the people, and the
city is starting to increase population and activities. Canal, actually after two
decades of operation, becomes a dump, so people start to put, dump garbage in
there and the sewer and so on. So it’s basically abandoned, the canal was
abandoned. And then at some point the canal got covered, so it’s created B
Street. In the early 20th century I think that the people turn to today, in
1902, Army Corps cleaned the river, dredged some sediment, and filled the land between
Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, for this piece of land was
completely filled, and it becomes a large piece of reclaimed land and we call that
Potomac Park these days. So the road later on, the B Street later on, that
extended all the way west meets the river and the street becomes Constitution
Avenue. And here we still see that little
house, Lockkeeper’s House, in this photograph that was shot
in 1911 from top of the Washington Monument. This particular photograph from the
National Archives showing the Lockkeeper’s House at the corner of these two streets.
And you can tell from the next picture, because the road has widened over
time, by 1900, the house is sitting outside of the 17th Street edge. So this brings, this brought, the next
move of which is in 1915 – you can see the little date in this small drawing that
shows how much it moved and which year. So in 1915, it was moved from this
original location west and north, so it’s moved 49 feet west and six feet north.
And it’s surrounded by a nicely planted landscape and the intersection
and curbs, it’s nicely situated in a street corner. At that time actually,
the house was labeled as a watchman’s locker and tool room, so you can tell
that’s kind of a comfort station and storage. For the next hundred years,
this structure took on a lot of different
functions – it used to be a police station, public restroom, storage, bank store, and
so a lot of functions it served. By 2010, the Park Service are thinking about
renovating Constitution Garden and Lockeepers House, you saw this
condition of the house. The house really was in a disrepair
condition. The wood door and window frames are all rotten, a lot of them are
rotten, and glass is broken, and wildlife or the domestic animals take the space,
and the mortars between stones were all loose. So it’s really the time for
renovating this place. In addition to the structure, and how the house condition
is solved, it’s because the Constitution Avenue
widened again over time, it sits really at the edge of the Constitution
Avenue, only leaves a small space for a pedestrian walkway to go through.
Because of the condition, the safety condition, and also the
structure condition there, it was not opened and there was a wayside sign here
just simply to expand on what the house was and expand the history a little bit, just
for the information that it can contain in this one little area,
for people to read. And also when people are reading this, you can tell, you
have a pedestrian, you know, passing behind you and high-speed cars also
zooming through, it’s really not an ideal situation. Therefore it is a lost
opportunity to tell a rich story of this location, not only the Lockkeeper
House itself, the story of canal, of Washington Canal, and say “okay
now, that’s the start point.” Although we have a site in Georgetown that you can
visit for the Lockkeeper’s House, and there are multiple lockkeepers houses along the C&O
canal, but this really is the place where the oldest Lockkeeper House, and series
of lockkeeper houses started. And also have the story about the reclaimed land, and
close to the Washington Monument, and World War II memorial, and all of that.
So the key location actually provides a lot of interpretation and education
opportunities from this site, yet we were not taking advantage of that. So if, you know, if we move the house, if we
repair the house, we’re thinking about the function of it and how we use it,
when we decide to move it, there are a few objectives. One is that the house
wants to be moved far enough from the street corner, from two streets that had
is having increasing traffic – heavy traffic that vibrates the
ground, therefore the house got vibrated and the structure got weakened. So we
want to move it away from the street corner enough to avoid that. And we also
want to be sure there is enough space that we can utilize it to build a little bit
gateway plaza that receives people as groups, as individuals. So we want
enough space to do that, but we also don’t want to move it too far. We still
want this structure to relate to this street intersection and relate to its
original location. So this is roughly where the original Lockkeeper’s
House was, and then the location before the 2017 move and roughly where the
Lockkeeper’s House is sitting today.
So you can tell the first move was roughly 50 feet, and then the second
move is also 50 feet diagonally. To move the house, we need to prepare the
house – actually based on the contractor’s estimation, it’s weighted like a 110
tons, and close to probably more than 200,000 pounds.
The weight is not the problem, the structure and the structural integrity of
the house as it was, was a problem. So to be sure we can safely move it, and after the
move the house was still intact, we have to prepare this building. What we did
before moving is, we took out all the window frames, windows, doors, two stone
chimneys. Those stone chimneys were the revisions after the first move, so those
were not original, so we took them down; one, it’s easier for the house to be moved,
and another, is we will build the original chimney with brick material
anyways. So the roof also was taken down because, you know, we will
put a new roof – the old roof was not working anymore. And all the weakened
mortar joints of those stones – if you see, this lighter color of mortars – they were
redone, so they are holding the stones, exterior wall stones, together – be sure
when we move them, all the stones, all the pieces go along together. So it’s pretty much in
this, and then we put cement blocks in those spaces, so it supports the
exterior diverse laterally, so it’s keeping the house as an integrated
structure. This is the starting of the foundation, but the first move actually
was done a little bit simpler, they didn’t build a concrete foundation, what they
did is they cut the house at the pre-existing elevation and then buried
some of the stone walls and – moved and buried some stone walls – so the house was
shortened from original height, and the foundation was not that strong, that’s
why it’s causing shaking and loosing the building. The second move, we had a plan,
we did a basement so it’s a deep concrete footing with the room
basement areas to contain all the equipment, and then the house was cut
also at the level of – 1817 level – and moved to this location. So this
is a photograph showing the start of the excavation, the sheeting process. And you
can see the basement, this is the basement, we are building in, now all
the concrete walls were built and come to the level that the house will be
sitting in. And Wolfe, a house and building moving
company, is the contractor, the general contractor is Hensel Phelps, they are
really specialized in moving houses and buildings – they moved a lot of structures,
a lot of them are larger than this one. What they did is they
started with taking pieces of stones from the exterior wall.
The decision is, we’ll cut the building at this level, those stones were removed
at certain intervals and then the steel beams – this is the starting, this
is the first two beams they inserted into this building – eventually they would
have a large or small combination of a system of steel beams to be put
underneath this house. And then they use jacks, some of them are hydraulic,
some just by hand, like how when we change the car wheel, those type of jacks,
like a more powerful. They used jacks to raise the building and they use the
box cribs like those to stack together. So the raising of the house is
sort of in a small, couple of inches, increment, so they raised a little bit
and put the box crib underneath and gradually raise it to the height that
they can put the dollies underneath. So these are dollies, there are four of
them, like one at each corner. And before they moved, they put marks on
the foundation, a corner, therefore they know where the house has to move
and has to land. The move, actually the the building, in the entire duration of
the moving, the building didn’t change orientation. It was those wheels that
were making turns, so the building was always sitting on this steel beam system and
in this position. The entire move actually, if you count, probably took a
little bit more than two hours. They first moved south for 30-some feet, very slowly.
And then this photograph shows the wheels making turns, and then they
moved to the west. It took them a long time, I think probably
more than 30 minutes, to check and measure and adjust to be sure that
the corner of the house will land at those four corners. I have a little bit, a
small YouTube video that was done by the mover. So you see the series of steel beams. So that actually, you know, in a short
period of time, shows you the entire moving. A lot of people actually in this
room watched that move, wait and stood there for two hours to watch the entire thing.
So when they land the house, they reverse the steps, they lower
the house down, gradually, and take out the box cribs, and use the jacks and then,
one thing that is different, is when they land the house, they built the interior
wall first. So the house at this point was supported, you can see, at the corner
by cement blocks, temporarily, and some jacks. This is the time that they are building
the interior wall. And then the house then was supported on the interior wall,
they then take out all the jacks and put the exterior wall back. The moving happened on October 13,
2017, so it took, you can tell, we started December 16 and this was moved on
October 17th. And then the house needed to be fixed in the cold weather. Going
through the winter in November, December, until March in next spring. And a lot of
work, our masonry work, they are very sensitive to the exterior temperature,
therefore the general contractor built like a tent structure. In the tent
structure, there are scaffolding and there are catwalks, probably three layers of
catwalks around the house. And the inside of the tent is heated,
therefore is good for all the materials to be put in. So this is the
inside of the tent, you can see the roof is ongoing. So the renovated house
had a lot of traditional material, like the original material, the
chimneys are brick, and the wood shingles, copper flashing at the corner, and so on.
They actually, the colors of those materials, are not matching what we saw
before we demolished the building, or treated the building for moving. But they
are authentic original material – original type of material, it’s just that they are
going to be weathered eventually to an older look. Now we just have to enjoy this
coloration, which is a vivid and looking new, and pretty nice. I believe so, the flashing, only
at the corners. Antique brick, they’re not old ones, there were some old
bricks that took down from the fireplace and so on, but the contractor deemed they
were not structurally sound, to be reused, so they ordered
some. The mortar or actually, the architect actually
studied in the lab, they studied the content of the old mortar, and they made
a formula for the new mortar, close to the original one, including the color.
Including the color of the mortar, they believe, right now, you see them as a very
light color – when it’s half done, you can see the different colors between the new
mortar and the old one, yet the architect, I believe, those lighter colors were
the original color, it just weathered, changed to a darker one. So
this is a kind of a detail shot for all the layers we put in, on the
roof, to do the waterproofing. It’s really using traditional material, yet the most
current techniques for the roof waterproofing, including the
drainage layers, the sheet waterproofing, and flashing here.
And this one is showing one way the mortar pointing to the
existing stone walls. And the interior material is all very simple, the polished
concrete. Polished concrete floor and similar finish, I would say almost the
same finish, in the interior, which is original. The second story’s floor was
taken out to increase the height of the interior room, and some of the joists
that support the floor in the second story were repaired. And the carpentry
work is very well done, and the carpenters spend a lot of time doing
nice details. This shows how the old joists connect with a piece of new wood,
and the connections are actually recorded in a lot of Japanese wood
repair books showing, you know, this is kind of a traditional technique. And the
carpenter also spent a lot of time to fit the wood frame to this
irregular stone profile. Spent a lot of time on those details. And the basement
is really – is the nicest basement I’ve seen,
you know, where it’s HVAC system that has
a geothermal system in there, and our irrigation panel, electric panel, alarm, and
everything connected, the utility connects from the city to here, and then serve the
House. And now we have this before and after
shot. You know before, you could hardly find a place to stand to read the wayside
signs, and now if you are in a car, you have a very comfortable distance to see
the entire Lockkeeper House, and if you are on the ground, either on wheels or on foot,
you feel comfortable, you have enough space, you’re not hitting other people.
And if you want to meet your friend in the area you can simply say “meet at the
Lockkeeper House plaza,” you can easily – it’s a place that’s not too large, you get
lost, not too small, you cannot, you know, contain groups, so you can see it can
have, you know, this, like a ten-people group, kind of feels, like, intimate, under
the tree and fit in the plaza. Yes, we had soft opening last week,
over the Labor Day, weekend and it will open, the grand opening ceremony will
be on September 13th. Should be next Thursday. Okay, a little bit about
Constitution Garden, because we say the Lockkeeper House is the first phase of the
Constitution Garden improvement. So the Constitution Garden – this is before
Constitution Garden, this was demolished 1970, and Constitution Garden was built in
‘76 and was designed by Dan Kiley, I think he is the most elegant
landscape architect in our time. Well yeah, those
those landscape architects at times are arrogant, but I can say that
because I’m a landscape architect. And this is the Trust of the National Mall organized a
competition, had three sites, gateway sites: one is Constitution Garden, one is Sylvan
theater, and one is Union Square. This competition was won by Peter Walker and
Partners, he is also a famous landscape architect. And so this is the vision for
the Constitution Garden improvement. The lake will pretty much keep its shape,
have a, sort of a controlled water feature, you can call that a small pond
or a pool that can have a motor sailboat or controlled sailboat in there and ice
skating in the winter. The lake is naturalized with a lot of
plants that are doing the water filtration, cleaning, and there will be a
pavilion that contains lot of programs in there. And the lake itself
would become a water treatment infrastructure. The surrounding landscape
will have perforated pavement and a lot of planting areas that water simply will
percolate through and be collected in the so called sand drainage layer, and
some filtration there, and then go to the pond and be pumped back to the planting
bed to do the irrigation. And the pavilion has a lot of programs,
including the exhibition and restaurant, café, moveable tables, and chairs and
umbrellas. And in the evening, it can have events for ice skating, and on the side
there is an amphitheater that can hold a lot of events there. So those are kind of
the future visions of the Lockkeeper House and Constitution Garden area. The
soft opening last week proved to be very successful, and we can see the
opportunity of this site starting to be realized. A lot of people are so
interested in the canal story, about the reclaimed land story, even the story of
the 17th Street Navy which controls the flood north of the Mall. So this place
really becomes a gateway that linked White House visitors and the Vietnam
Veteran Memorial and World War II, all these larger tourist attraction sites. So,
as I said, grand opening next Thursday, so hopefully everybody will, you know, if
you’re interested you can go there. So today we have lot of Park
Service people here, I really want to thank you for your support and, actually,
I am doing a lot of this with my colleagues Rosemary, Sean, and Jeff,
they’re all here today. Thank you.

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