The Federal Reserve Bank: Atlanta's Center of Banking

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The Federal Reserve Bank (the "Fed''), Atlanta's arm of the central banking system of the United States, is located in the Midtown area of the city on Peachtree Street, Atlanta's famous main thoroughfare. It is near many other attractions in the area, including the Fox Theatre, the High Museum of Art, Piedmont Park, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Center for Puppetry Arts. Downtown Atlanta is only minutes away. The bank can be reached from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has a train station about five blocks away, and bus lines also serve the area.

Atlanta's new Federal Reserve building opened in 2001. The bank's employees had been spread among three buildings for several years, and the new 957,000-square-foot compound allowed the Fed to consolidate and upgrade their security to current standards. When the new bank opened, the Atlanta Business Chronicle said, "What impresses people most about the building is its sheer size.'' The massive complex, actually two separate buildings, has a 65-foot-high, 500,000-cubic-foot, high-security cash processing facility as well as office space for 1,200 employees.

The Federal Reserve, established in 1913, has twelve banks, each of which oversees a region of the country. Atlanta's region includes Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, as well as parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. The Fed's functions, according its website, are:

Monetary policy, that is, keeping inflation and economic growth at proper levels through setting interest rates and regulating the money supply

Bank supervision and regulation, which ensures that banks are stable and operating within the law

Operation of a nationwide payment system, by providing cash to banks, wiring money and clearing checks

A unique feature of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank is its Visitors Center and Monetary Museum. A fascinating visit for both children and adults, the Visitors Center and Museum uses artifacts, rare currency and interactive displays to educate the public about the history of money and the role of the Federal Reserve in everyday life. Its features include:

The Story of Money, which relates the history of bartered objects and currency. The museum includes many rare artifacts, uncut sheets of old U.S. currency and a gold bar.

Interactive features, in which visitors detect counterfeit currencies and can "play banker,'' making financial decisions about monetary policy

A view into the robotically operated bank vault, where "cash buses'' move pallets of money around the floor

Reviews of the Federal Reserve Visitors Center and Monetary Museum are very positive. Fodor's calls the Monetary Museum "grand,'' and says it's a "gem.'' While one visitor was concerned that small children who cannot read or who don't understand the value of money would not have enough to do, another says that "the museum is small enough and has enough displays and demonstrations that the kids won't be bored.'' That same person rates the museum as "VERY COOL!'' The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the center "more educational than fun'' and "stodgy.'' Most visitors agree with this reviewer, however, who said, "What I did see was very interesting. And best of all, the whole thing is free.''

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