Historic Structures

The Bank of Columbia (later Georgetown Town Hall, then Fire Company #5), Washington DC

Date added: October 8, 2010 Categories: Bank

The builder, the Bank of Columbia, occupied 3210 M Streetj N.W. from 1796-1806 (Records of the Columbia Historical Society, vol. 24, p. 104). George Washington owned a large number of stocks in this institution and was a director of the bank (The Wright collection at the George Washington University, stock certificates; George Washington's will). After the bank moved in 1806, the structure lay vacant until 1807, when the Bureau of Indian Trade moved into the building. The agency was prominent during this period as it was in charge of the profitable Indian fur trade. The Bureau occupied the premises until 1822.

On July 19, 1823 the Georgetown government approved a resolution that the structure be rented for $150 a year as a "safe and convenient house for the accommodation of this Corporation, and the preservation of the records and papers belonging to the town." On March 22, 1845 an ordinance was enacted approving the purchase of the building for $2,400, provided the purchase would date from April 1, 1843. On June 2, 1845, the property was transferred to the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen and Common Council of Georgetown.

The Town House was sold to Elenor R. Lang on September 30, 1863 for $7,500. Mrs. Lang failed to meet her payments, however, and the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen and Common Council repurchased the property as highest bidders at a sale on October 20, 1870 for $4,900. The deed was dated March 18, 1871, but as an Act of Congress of February 21, 1871 revoked Georgetown's charter as of March 31. 1871, the property ceased to be used as a Town Hall from that date. The property then reverted to the District of Columbia Government.

Pursuant to Acts of Congress on March 3, 1883, the building was remodeled into an engine house for fire company no. 5 at a cost of $7,206.11. The structure was occupied for this use on November 17, 1883 and remained so until consolidation with another fire company led to its abandonment by the fire department on June 4, 1940. Since this time, the building has been in use as a garage for the District Sanitation Department except for a brief period when conveyed by Congress to the Association of Oldest Inhabitants.

Although turned over to the association in August 1959 at one half its market value, the structure was found to be physically deficient to the degree that restoration would cost approximately $100,000. For lack of such funds, the association returned the building to the District of Columbia Government.