100 Years of the Ninth District Fed in Downtown Minneapolis

The first Minneapolis Fed location was truly temporary. The Minneapolis Fed opened initially in the Minnesota Loan & Trust Co. building at Fifth St. and Hennepin Ave. in downtown Minneapolis Nov. 2, 1914, where its eight employees worked out of the host bank’s directors room and a teller's cage to serve the 709 stock-holding banks.

Two weeks later, the staff moved into larger quarters in the Lumber Exchange Building at Fifth St. and Hennepin Ave. On the Registry of Historic Places, the Lumber Exchange still stands. However, vault space was inadequate in this location and had to be rented in nearby commercial banks, leading Minneapolis Fed officials to look for a more permanent facility.

In January 1915, the Bank's 18 employees and officers moved again, this time into the New York Life Building at Second Ave. South and Fifth St., which remained home to the Minneapolis Fed until 1925. During this period, the Minneapolis Fed's building became cramped as functions and staff grew. Employees were scattered throughout rented quarters in the New York Life Building and two other buildings.

Spurred by the need to house growing operations and staff in one location, a building site was purchased at Fifth St. and Marquette Ave., and Cass Gilbert of New York was selected to design a new bank building. Gilbert also designed the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.

The new building was occupied on Feb. 1, 1925, just a few months after the death of the bank’s first leader, Federal Reserve Agent John Rich, who had envisioned the building. Ironically, his successor, John Mitchell, who had opposed the original building plans, became the first leader to occupy the new building. Eight stories were added to the four-story Cass Gilbert structure in1959, which allowed the bank to consolidate all its operations under one roof. This building housed the Fed for 48 years. Since that time, the building has been significantly remodeled and is now home to PNC Bank.

While the Gilbert building consolidated operations for a number of years, the Minneapolis Fed opened a rented annex in the former Farmers & Mechanics Bank at 115 Fourth St. South to accommodate major expansion in staff and functions during World War II.

Operations continued to grow in the 1950s. Despite the additional floors in the main bank building, the Fed was forced to lease additional space in the Syndicate Building on Nicollet Ave. between 5th and 6th Sts. The location became Penney’s department store in later years and was demolished in 1989.

Still cramped for space to house growing operations, the Fed searched for a new building site and chose to go modern. The new Minneapolis Fed building at 250 Marquette Ave. was a marked change from the buildings previously occupied by the bank. Michigan architect Gunnar Birkerts designed the building, employing the same principles that allow a suspension bridge to stand. The building opened in 1973 as the world’s first suspension building. Two-thirds of the bank’s total space was located underground, and nearly the entire block at the north end of Nicollet Mall was preserved as an open plaza. The building has since been remodeled, but the catenary arch that suspended the original building is still visible.

Yet again, the Minneapolis Fed outgrew its home. Settling on a site on Hennepin Avenue at the north end of downtown, the Fed engaged St. Louis architect Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum to design a campus that would complement the adjacent historic warehouse district and the Mississippi riverfront. The current home of the Minneapolis Fed opened in 1997 with an eight-story office tower at the corner of Hennepin Ave. and First St. North that connects via skyway and tunnel to the four-story operations center. The site was previously occupied by Native Americans who had a summer camp along the river, the Pacific Lumber Mills, the Great Northern Train Depot, which was demolished in 1978, and the Northup King seed company.

See more about the location and design of the current Minneapolis Fed building.