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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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District National: 1931

District National: 1931

"District National Bank, 1931." This one has a kind of Bonnie and Clyde vibe, don't you think? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Showing the colors

We always thought the barber pole was blue for veins, red for blood, and white for bandages. It was scary to think about that while getting a shave with a straight razor!

More on Barber Poles

Barber poles go back a loooong way, 13th century or so. This from

The modern barber pole originated in the days when bloodletting was one of the principal duties of the barber. The two spiral ribbons painted around the pole represent the two long bandages, one twisted around the arm before bleeding, and the other used to bind is afterward. Originally, when not in use, the pole with a bandage wound around it, so that both might be together when needed, was hung at the door as a sign. But later, for convenience, instead of hanging out the original pole, another one was painted in imitation of it and given a permanent place on the outside of the shop. This was the beginning of the modern barber pole.

Wiki says the pole was supported in a brass bowl, representing the bowls that leeches were kept in at the barber's shop and that the pole was what the "customers" gripped to facilitate the flow of blood. Nobody seems to know where the blue stripe came from, probably a patriotic twist, as it were.

The practice of surgery arose from barbering.

Bonnie and Clyde

This top-heavy edifice looks ready to be "knocked over"!

Happy April Fools!

Barber poles

Just to make the place look attractive? Or did they serve a purpose? Did they spin? Were they electrically powered?

For some reason they fascinate me.

[Yes, they would spin and light up from the inside. Red, white and blue stripes. They are the traditional symbol or ornament for barbershops in America. - Dave]

I was wondering..

I was wondering what those poles were with the colored bars in front of the building to the right. I've seen them in old movies before.

[Those are barbershop poles. - Dave]

RKO Keith's

Far right of the picture is the back (stage door?) of B.F.Keith's Theatre, later RKO Keith's, a major Washington vaudeville house.

The rear corner of Keith's that we see is now gone but the western half of the north facade was saved. I walked down this block every afternoon for several years on the way to catch my bus home in 15th Street but do not remember anything except Keith's. The neighborhood was on hard times then in the mid 70s. Gus Buchholz's Occidental Hotel offered tickets to Keith's for vaudeville.

No Longer There

District National Bank failed in 1933 during the Depression, eventually merged with a group of other banks and was renamed Hamilton National Bank. This building at 1406 G Street NW was torn down and is now a office complex called Metropolitan Square.


It's funny to see the stately grandeur of the building combined with the broadway-esque lighted sign sticking out of the front.

Joe from LI, NY


Interesting, that the store to left of the bank is vacant. Whatever was there before couldn't make it even with with a high traffic draw like a bank next to it. However, to the right of the bank, the barber probably did ok.

Life without the visual noise

So stark, so clean: nary an advertisement in sight.

Excuse me?

Yours is a pathetic lament, and utterly untrue. We can do whatever they did 80 years ago. The problem is that you can't afford it. No longer will we work for slave wages simply to beautify the world of the philistines. That's called Progress.

Height matters

It is said that one can tell what a society most values by observing what are the tallest buildings in said society. In America it used to be churches until the 20th century, and then it was business.

We'll never see

the likes of craftsmanship like this again. The talent and artistry that it takes to build something like this has been dead for years. It couldn't be done at any cost.What a beautiful monument to the builder's art.

Still there?

What a lovely building. Surely it's still there. Nice little car across the street, too.

Lovely Terra Cotta

Washington Post, Dec 19, 1909


District National's New Home
to Be Handsome Edifice

To Build at 1406 G Street.

The building committee of the District National Bank has selected the plans of Milburn, Heister & Co. for their new banking building, to be erected at 1406 G street northwest, from those of eight competing architects, all of this city.

The building will be 38 feet 5 inches wide by 75 feet deep. The elevation will be made of stone, steel and brick with terracotta ornamentations. It will not only be ornamental, but massive in construction, both as a bank and office building.

The first story, to to the sills of the second-story windows, will be stone construction. The balance of the front will be light brick, with stone and terracotta trimmings. The entire structure will be as near fireproof as modern architecture can provide with steel, stone, brick and concrete.

The entrance to the bank, as well as to the building, will be an imposing but short corridor in the center of the building. On the right will be an exposed stairway of marble and bronze, and to the left, two electric elevators leading to the seven office floors above.

The entire first floor of the building will be set apart for the bank. The public lobby of the financial institution will be 18 feet wide and about 40 feet deep. One side will be taken up by cages, to be occupied by the tellers, &c. On the opposite side, the cashier, assistant cashier and vice president will have exposed sections, separated from the public lobby only by by bronze railings and grill work of bronze about 3 feet hight. This is a new feature for Washington banks, although adopted in some Eastern cities, the object being to give these officials a greater opportunity to meet the public with less formality.


It actually reminds me a bit of one of the buildings in the Exchange District here in Winnipeg, albeit with older cars parked in front.

Bricks & Mortar

It is interesting how banks depend so much on their building facade to instill a sense of security in their customers. Even today massive structures, columns, and heavy masonry all exist to "sell" the bank's security to the general public even though the organization may be extremely overleveraged and tottering on the brink of failure.

Quiet day

I expect to see tumbleweeds rolling across!

The Perfect Setup

Anyone want to lease that store next to the bank, and drill our way into the vault? Larry? Moe? Curly?

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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