Columns Opinion — 31 January 2014
Out of the Attic: A victim of urban renewal

(Photo/HABS/Library of Congress)

The First National Bank opened its doors at 503-507 King St. 100 years ago, featuring architecture in a classic revival style with bronze and marble details as well as modern safety enhancements.

Located on the north side of King Street between Pitt and St. Asaph streets, the bank was designed by the architectural firm of Vogt & Morrill. The firm was based in Washington, but Milton Dana Morrill, a former architect for the U.S.

Department of Treasury, lived in Alexandria. Morrill was an early proponent of concrete construction and won awards for his innovative work.

Construction began on the First National Bank in the summer of 1908 and was completed the following year in June. The one-story building with a vaulted ceiling reached 50 feet high and 75 feet deep. The reinforced brick and concrete walls were faced with white marble and the front exterior featured a Doric pediment and a broken entablature. This design allowed an arched entrance with grille-covered windows to reach far above the bronze door.

Because of its concrete construction the building was touted as being fireproof. The vault, directly opposite the entrance, was encased with railroad iron grille work and had doors thick with several inches of steel plates. Above the vault was a specially designed watchman’s room where a security guard could observe the entire building but remain unseen himself.

The Washington Post wrote of the newly opened bank in 1909, “The front as well as the interior … is simple and impressive, and is the type of design and construction to last and be admired for many generations.” Later known as the First and Citizens National Bank, it was demolished in 1968 during Alexandria’s urban renewal.

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Out of the Attic is provided by the 
Office of Historic Alexandria.

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