- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - A plan to restore the oldest structure on the National Mall, a 178-year-old Lockkeeper’s House from Washington’s old canal system, is moving closer to reality with a major gift Tuesday.

American Express is making a $1 million grant to preserve and restore the structure as an education space for the National Mall’s visitors, according to officials with the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall. The project is part of a larger rehabilitation planned for part of the mall known as Constitution Gardens that would create a new lakeside garden and restaurant.

The small Lockkeeper’s House stands between the White House and Lincoln Memorial as a rare structure from 19th century Washington. It was built during a time when canals were used to transport goods in and out of the capital. A lockkeeper lived and worked at the site, collecting tolls and operating gates for canal barges.

After the advent of railroads, the canals were filled in. The building was later used for storage and public restrooms. For the past 40 years, it has been boarded up and fell into disrepair, officials said.

Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, said the historic building has long been overlooked but will be saved by a public-private partnership.

“The Lockkeeper’s House will have yet another life as a gateway to one of the most visited areas of the National Mall and a visible reminder of the capital city’s past,” she said in a written statement.

As part of the restoration project, the house will be lifted off its foundation and moved into the park about 32 feet, away from the busy street, before it is opened to visitors.

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