As more people moved to DC in the early 20th century, newly-established neighborhoods, like Chevy Chase, drew local businesses, including banks to deposit and withdraw money, to support the neighborhoods’ local residents. Many banks were located downtown, but as more people moved to suburban areas of the District, neighborhood savings banks became more convenient for those living farther away from the city center. The Chevy Chase Savings Bank was one such neighborhood bank, meant to provide services for families and the local businesses. The Italian Renaissance Revival style building designed by Arthur B. Heaton is the only surviving bank of two that he designed in this particular style (the other, now demolished, was the Washington Loan & Trust Company’s West End Branch at 17th and G streets NW).
The Chevy Chase neighborhood — which is located along the stateline and encompasses residential blocks in both the District of Columbia and Montgomery County, Maryland — dates back to the 1880s and its establishment as a streetcar suburb. Because of limitations on commercial use, the commercial strip along Connecticut Avenue NW evolved in a unique way. Due to different ownership along Connecticut Avenue’s west side — the east side being owned by the Chevy Chase Land Company, which was bound by these limitations — a commercial strip was able to develop along the corridor’s west side blocks, within Connecticut Avenue Terrace. The east side of Connecticut Avenue, on the other hand, would not gain its commercial character until the early 1950s. Unfortunately, banks, like other businesses at the time, practiced and promoted discriminatory policies and tactics. These practices also extended to racially restrictive covenants in housing, which were found throughout the city’s neighborhoods, including in Chevy Chase.
The Chevy Chase Savings Bank opened in 1921 in an office located at the southwest corner of McKinley Street and Connecticut Avenue. However, only one year later, the bank purchased the property (one block south at Morrison Street) that the current bank building stands on, expanding their offices as the neighborhood grew. Its new, larger location, which was built in 1926, worked well for private clients and small businesses, rooting itself as a trusted institution in the neighborhood and city. The new bank building, with its sandstone and granite exterior, featured medallions of Pierre L’Enfant, George Washington, and the 1920s Peace Dollar (both the obverse and reverse), hinting at a wave of nostalgia for American history during the time of construction. The building was constructed one year after the completion of the adjacent Chevy Chase Arcade, further establishing the Chevy Chase commercial strip. These and other businesses along the Connecticut Avenue corridor, such as the Chevy Chase Theater (Avalon Theater), built in 1922, supported the surrounding residential neighborhoods, which were quickly developing.
However, in 1933, as the Great Depression continued to intensify, a national bank “holiday” was declared and banks were closed throughout the country. The bank soon reopened as a branch of Riggs National Bank. The consolidation helped stabilize the bank, and allowed its customers to return without fear of losing their money. The continued trust in the bank led to an expansion of the building in 1958. This expansion added three additional bays to the western portion of the bank building, forming an arcade of six arched windows along Morrison Street. The architectural firm, Mills, Petticord, and Mills matched the exterior of the addition to the original designed by Heaton, but records indicate that the interior of the bank was extensively renovated. Christian Wohlgemuth, Jr., constructed both the original building and the addition.
It continued as a Riggs Bank branch until 2005, when Riggs was sold to PNC Bank, a Pittsburgh-based company. It continues to operate under PNC.
DC Inventory: January 26, 2023
National Register: April 27, 2023