Mercantile Savings Bank
German Roots in Washington

The former Mercantile Savings Bank at 10th Street and G Place, NW (photo August 2010). The former Mercantile Savings Bank at 10th Street and G Place, NW (photo August 2010). | Photo: Goethe-Institut Washington/William Gilcher The building housing the former Mercantile Savings Bank at 10th Street and G Place, N.W. was designed by the Frankfurt-born architect Julius Wenig (1872–1940). 

The D.C. Preservation League Reporter noted in its Winter 1991 issue that a landmark application for the Mercantile Savings Bank building had been prepared by the preservation/architectural history consulting firm of Traceries: 
The Mercantile Savings Bank at 719-21 10th street, N.W., is an important example of the neighborhood savings banks which appeared in Washington, D.C. after the turn of the century. Unlike nationally-chartered banks, savings banks catered to small depositors and were often located in or on the edges of residential neighborhoods. The Mercantile Savings Bank, located west of the residential area which is known today as Chinatown, was designed in 1912 by Washington architect Julius Wenig. The two-story building illustrates a skilled handling of classical revival motifs, while the patterned use of rough-textured buff brick and other materials show the influence of the Craftsman Movement.

The 2009 D. C. Inventory of Historic Sites has the following to say about the bank building, which was granted landmark status July 28, 1994:
Notable example of a small early-20th century savings bank, embodying the historical associations and architectural expression of these once common, but often short-lived financial institutions; one of the last such structures downtown; illustrates use of modest classicism to convey dignity and financial stability, while retaining an approachable image; significant work of local architect; 2 stories, buff brick and limestone, Italian Renaissance Revival style; built 1912 (Julius Wenig, architect); altered 1938 (also by Wenig).


Julius Wenig, Architect

Julius Wenig was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1872. He came to the United States when he was 17 years old. After a brief time in Chicago, he came to Washington, where he had a successful career as an architect, designing, building, or remodeling many buildings, including the Mercantile Savings Bank on 10th Street NW, Georgetown’s Kesher Israel Synagogue (1931), a number of row houses and commercial buildings on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, movie theaters, and other buildings. For many years, he served as treasurer of the Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He was a member of St. Mary Mother of God Church and died in 1940 in Washington.

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