Erected in 1922, the block-long, temple-inspired structure was designed as one of the first branches of the Riggs National Bank- an event which foreshadowed a national trend in the expansion of the banking industry permitted by de-regulation in 1927. The Riggs-Tompkins Building was erected at the terminus of the Fourteenth Street street railway line, a principal north-south transportation artery. The structure was the largest and most important commercial building in the developing Mount Pleasant district of Washington. Together with the Tivoli Theater (1923) across Fourteenth Street, the building defined the commercial and social nucleus of the burgeoning northwest sector of Washington. The favorable site and elevation of the Riggs-Tompkins Building also provided the location for an important technological development in the emerging field of mass communications: radio broadcasting. The studio and transmitters of the Radio Corporation of America's Station WRC, the city's oldest radio station in continuous operation, began broadcasting during the summer of 1923. WRC, the "Voice of the Capitol," was Washington's second commercial radio station and, was considered a pioneer in the field of radio and political journalism.
Designed by George Nicholas Ray, prominent Washington architect of the period, the Riggs-Tompkins Building was constructed by Charles Hook Tompkins, prolific local builder and an innovative engineer noted for the development of reinforced concrete structures. Designed in the popular Neo-Classical Revival style, the building and its contemporary, the Riggs Dupont Circle Branch Bank, are significant because as the earliest banks in the branch system, they were modeled after the Riggs National Bank headquarters building (1898) on Pennsylvania Avenue. Renovations and additions were contributed to the building in 1984-1985.
DC Inventory: June 17, 1985
National Register: January 5, 1987