On November 17, 1914, the New York Times reported on Treasury
Secretary W. G. McAdoo’s involvement in the
authorization of the Federal Reserve System’s operations, including a notice to member Banks, telegrams, and new Reserve notes. Appearing
with the article is a copy of the receipt for the first Reserve payment.
Paul M. Warburg, original New York member of the Federal Reserve Board, wrote:
The 16th of November may
be considered as the Fourth of July in the economic life of the United States. Coming
generations will commemorate it as marking the foundation of our financial
The foundation that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York provided to the
financial system was also notable for the people and materials involved in constructing
the building. The plots of land selected for the building were purchased from
1918 to 1919, with actual construction delayed until the associated costs went
down after the end of World War I. The building’s creation involved wide public
participation, beginning with the 1921 architectural competition. A thirty-three-page
document containing precise requirements became the basis for judging the
competitors’ contract proposals to design the new building.
In addition, the multicolored Indiana limestone and Ohio sandstone
used in the construction were unusual for the time, when monochromatic
buildings were the standard. The colorful masonry was incorporated, as the architects
felt that this feature would relieve the plainness of the building’s exterior
walls. Additionally, the commission of the building’s priceless ironwork by the
Yellin involved more tonnage of materials than other buildings he worked
on, such as those at Harvard University or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
The result was an instant classic, a building listed in both the New York State
and National Registries of Historic Places.
In the course of the ninety-nine years since its inception, the
Federal Reserve System has continued to progress toward its goal of providing
“safety, independence, and gradual, healthy expansion” to the United States. The
Federal Reserve Bank of New York building has evolved over the decades as well:
a restoration effort taking more than fifteen years is projected to be completed
in 2014. This overhaul of the building includes infrastructure improvements, technology
and electrical system upgrades, and a deep-cleaning of the masonry. Relatedly,
the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is currently nearing its 2013 centennial,
and has created a site
containing more information on the people and events that have shaped its past
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.
Megan Cohen is a research librarian in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group.