This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM visits M and Wisconsin Ave. The old photo was taken from a photo recently tweeted by the Georgetown Business Association. It shows the intersection as it was in 1915.
Two things immediately jump out. The first is how little the building on the northwest corner has changed (although an entrance facing Wisconsin has been since removed). It was originally built in 1850. In 1904, the Potomac Savings Bank bought the property. The bank at the time was located at the southwest corner of N and Wisconsin. The building at M and Wisconsin burned in 1909. The bank rebuilt and remodeled the property and moved back in in 1910.
The bank itself failed in 1933 (it was a bad time for banks). The property was shortly thereafter occupied by the Hamilton National Bank. That bank merged with the National Bank of Washington in 1954. It was the Georgetown branch of the local bank, and that’s why it still says “Georgetown Branch” over the door. Here it is in the 1960s:
The other striking thing about the 1915 photo is the building across the street. It is now occupied by the old Riggs Bank building (which was taken over by PNC). It was occupied by O’Donnell’s Drug Store. This was a local drug store that apparently had several different locations throughout DC.
GM found an amusing article about the store from 1901:
The old pharmacy building did not last too much longer. In 1922, the current bank building was constructed by the Farmers and Mechanics Bank. This bank was originally founded in 1814 by George C. Washington (nephew of the president) and Romulus Riggs (of the Riggs bank family).
It was located at 31st and M until it moved into the new building in 1922. It was merged into Riggs in 1928. At that point the building was renamed the Famers and Mechanics Branch of Riggs National Bank. That title still adorns the building.
After being the banker of corrupt governments for too long, Riggs Bank was taken over by PNC in 2005.