Spanning over 200 feet along both Superior Avenue and West 6th Street, the monumental thirteen-story Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland sits comfortably among neighboring Group Plan structures in the city's Civic Center district. The building is a reminder of an era of unprecedented urban growth in Cleveland, and the federal government's fledgling control over a central banking system.
Originally housed on the second floor of the Williamson Building overlooking the city's Public Square, the Fourth District of the Federal Reserve served member banks in Ohio, western Pennsylvania, parts of northern West Virginia, and eastern Pennsylvania. The Cleveland branch quickly became the third largest of the twelve Federal Reserve banks, forcing the institution to expand to multiple floors of the Williamson Building.
In 1919, the architectural firm of Walker and Weeks was hired to design a new home for Cleveland's branch of the Federal Reserve. Four architects and a team of draftsmen worked thirteen months on the design prior to beginning construction in 1921. One thousand sketches and nearly 2,000 blueprints were prepared for the new structure. Two years and $8.25 million later, the Fourth District Federal Reserve Bank formally opened on August 23, 1923 - an event that drew an estimated crowd of 40,000.
The structure was built as a modern Italian Renaissance palazzo and was inspired by the Medici Palace in Florence. The elaborate fortress reflected the soundness of the institution and spoke definitively to the safety of its holdings. Designed to meld with the Beaux Arts character of neighboring Group Plan buildings, the Federal Reserve Bank was built in a classical architectural style utilizing pink marble and granite. The imposing classical character of the bank's exterior is surpassed in grandness by the intricately detailed lobby. Impressed into the civic structure are symbols of strength, stability, and wealth. Gold marble walls and pillars are contrasted by ornate iron grilles which serve to protect twelve large ground-floor arched windows. In combination with its vaulted ceiling, the lobby design reflected the layout of a Roman basilica. The dignified statuary, paintings, and iron work speak to the history of the Federal Reserve institution and the ideals underlying its development.