|The bank building as it appeared in 1995 (Photo courtesy of the archives of the D.C. Preservation League).|
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Sunday, February 26, 2012
The monumental bank building on the southeast corner of 14th and G Streets, NW—vacant now for well over a decade—is one of several such landmarks in Washington's old financial district, but it has lived the ups and downs of the banking industry much more dramatically than the others. It was born as the home of a feverish enterprise that burned itself out after only 20 years. After going on to host the venerable National Bank of Washington for many decades, it went dark when that institution also collapsed in 1990. For more than a decade now, plans have been afoot to turn it into a museum to commemorate the victims of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923. The building, including its interior, is protected as an historic landmark. It's one of only 15 properties in the District with an historic interior designation. As reassuring as it is that plans are in the works for the building's future, it is also disheartening to see it stand vacant for so long—an unintended reminder, should we need one, of how impermanent our financial institutions can be, despite their best efforts to convince us otherwise.
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Monday, February 6, 2012
Before the magnificent Francis Scott Key Bridge was completed in 1923, a far homelier structure linked Georgetown to Rosslyn. Known as the Potomac Aqueduct or Aqueduct Bridge, it was born of Alexandria's aspirations to rival Georgetown as a commercial hub. A remarkable engineering achievement, the bridge served as a vital Potomac crossing for 80 years.
It all began with construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in the 1820s. The canal project was a long, complex, and expensive effort originally intended to spur commercial trade with Georgetown (and Washington) by establishing an economical transportation link to the vast and fertile Ohio Valley. It turned out to be too expensive to build it all the way across the mountains to the Midwest, and it never lived up to its investors' early hopes, but in the 1820s it seemed like the next big thing for the city. Alexandria merchants sorely wanted to get in on this expected action. It would have been too expensive to unload canal boats arriving in Georgetown and reload them on river boats to take them down to Alexandria, so a non-stop method was needed to get the canal boats to Alexandria.
|The Potomac Aqueduct, c. 1865. Source: Library of Congress|
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