(WJLA) - One of Earl Cotton's favorite things is to make music along a corridor that is rich in American history.
"You can't beat it...the early morning breeze, the sound of the music echoing off the buildings and everything...It looks like a castle right in the heart of D.C. -- and it's beautiful," he says.
Cotton has been playing in the shadow of one of Washington's treasured landmarks for years: The Old Post Office Tower.
"When I look at the tower, I think of history," he says.
Benjamin Franklin's steady resolve welcomes visitors who stroll by the Old Post Office, as this stunning structure completed in 1899 was the city's first skyscraper - with granite walls five feet thick that support a clock tower that soars 315 feet into the sky.
"We were walking around the corner and just astonished at the detail," says tourist Lori Savage.
"I think it's a lovely building and I am sorry that it is being closed," adds tour guide Susan Kilpatrick.
The Old Post Office was recently closed to the public, but in two years, it will reopen with the same façade - and an entirely new identity.
It is being transformed into a luxury hotel complete with fine dining and upscale shops - by none other than Donald Trump.
"This is D.C. These are national historic landmarks and it's going to be a shame that everybody walking around won't be able to go upstairs and look at the city," says tourist Amanda Hickman.
But Lori Savage is in step with federal officials, who believe this massive makeover preserves a cherished piece of history - while saving taxpayers millions: "It beats tearing it down," she says.
If Earl Cotton could, he would play a lullaby for an old building that witnessed more than a century of memories, that must be fundamentally changed in order to be saved:
"I don't think you can do anything to make it better than what it is now."