The Commercial National Bank, designed by noted Washington architect Waddy B. Wood in 1917, is an excellent, early example of the simplified and stylized classicism that distinguishes some of Washington's most noteworthy early 20th century buildings. The abstract classical vocabulary displayed here in 1917 reappears again and again in Washington in the 1920s and 1930s. The originality of Commercial National Bank's stylized classical vocabulary and the subtlety of its expression makes it unique for this early date. This powerful building marks an important transition from Waddy Wood's earlier, more literal use of traditional architectural forms to the boldness and abstraction of his later buildings.
The bank housed the city's fourth largest bank, Commercial National, of the 1920s (established in 1904), whose capital was frozen in the value of its building upon failure in 1933. Western Union occupied the top 3 floors of the building when it was first built and continued to expand over the years until making finally occupying the entire building, including the bank room itself.
Commercial National Bank is 11 stories tall with strong corner massing, limestone facades with flattened porticos, a plain ashlar mid-section, and a prominent cornice. It features austere decoration using Greek Doric motifs. The three-story banking lobby has monumental columns.
DC Inventory: July 16, 1986
National Register listing: October 11, 1991