Designed by famous architect Glenn Brown (1854-1932), the building remains the most important property in Washington associated with his career. The building was the architect’s office between 1890 and 1905, which was Brown’s most prolific period as an author and the height of his career as a professional organizer and city planning activist. The building is both architecturally significant and historically significant, as the building was the scene of many meetings significant in the planning history of the capital. The owner of the building was the National Union Insurance Company, the reasoning behind the naming the building, The National Union Building. Today, it is utilized by a variety of professional firms, architects, non-profit organizations, and attorneys.
The largest Richardson-inspired design Glenn Brown executed in Washington was the 1690 National Union Building. The predominant building material was "Humrnels town brownstone" quarried in Pennsylvania, and the structure today ranks as the city's most outstanding example of the commercial "Richardsonian" Romanesque Revival executed" in brownstone. Most notable are the poly-chromatic ornamental stonework and rubbled textured surfaces similar to Richardson's intricate stonework at Boston's Trinity Church (1572-1677) and Austin Hall at Cambridge, Massachusetts (1661-1664). Brown specially designed the foliated caps, bases, and spandrel panels of the National Union Building. This special attention to the ornamentation of a building had been standard procedure in Richardson's office. Brown, who had prepared the shop drawings for the Cheney Building, adopted this design approach in his own architectural practice. He also utilized the zonal design composition employed by Richardson in his early commercial buildings, such as the Hayden Building in Boston and the Cneney store and offices in Hartford.
The National Union Fire Insurance Company occupied the first floor of 916 F Street until the raid-1940s and rented the upper floors to patent attorneys, real estate agents, jewelers, and watch repairers. Today Cobb's Shoe store utilizes the old insurance company's space and the upper floors remain in use and are leased to a variety of professional firms, including architects, non-profit organizations, and attorneys.
DC designation October 24, 1973
National Register listing September 21, 1990