Following the merger of two banks, this building operated as headquarters for the new Federal-American National Bank. The bank was designed by architect Alfred C. Bossom (1881-1965), in association with Washington’s leading Beaux-Arts practitioner, Jules Henri de Sibour (1872 -1938). Built between 1925 and 1926, the bank has an unusual plan with the banking room on a raised main floor and retail space at street level. This architectural design is unique to DC bank buildings in the 20th century, which utilized the second floor to separate internal financial business from the cacophonous noise of the street.
The building features a monumental Classical Revival façade in limestone with large arched windows, engaged columns, sculptural embellishment, and a bronze vestibule. The banking room is in the Renaissance Revival style and has a marble entrance stair, mezzanine, elaborate polychrome coffered ceiling, chandeliers, ornamentation in classical motifs, and an innovative open counter design.
In October 1930, Federal-American merged with Merchants Bank and Trust—and operated four branches in the city in addition to its central office. Despite this apparent success, the banking crisis of 1933 and the ensuing financial turmoil of the Great Depression rendered the bank insolvent. Thus, it did not receive a government license to resume operation. Part of this closure was due to the Federal-American building itself, an impressive and costly structure that constituted the majority of the bank’s financial reservoirs during a time of crisis. This type of investment is not easily liquidated, and was a major factor in the closure of banks across America, which precipitated the Great Depression. Federal-American Bank was just one of many bank casualties across the nation.
The federal government established Hamilton National Bank out of seven local banks (including Federal-American) and the central office was operated out of Federal-American’s original building. In 1954, Hamilton merged with the National Bank of Washington and retained residence at the stunning building on 14th Street NW.
In recent years, the original bank building has undergone an extensive restoration and renovation, and operates as office and retail space. The building now includes a rooftop deck, fitness club, and terrace gardens. An 11-story office building facing G Street has also been added to the building’s rear elevation. Both the bank building’s exterior and the interior are historically designated.
DC Inventory: July 18, 1990
National Register: December 29, 1994