Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Board authorizes construction of a branch bank building in Seattle on February 28, 1949.

  • By Jennifer Ott
  • Posted 10/10/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8808

On February 28, 1949, the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco authorizes the construction of a building for the bank's Seattle branch. The branch had occupied leased quarters since its establishment in 1917. By authorizing the building of a permanent home for the branch, the bank indicates its confidence in Seattle's future as a financial center for the northern portion of the Twelfth Federal Reserve District.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, formed in 1914, served the Twelfth Federal Reserve District, which encompassed nine Western states. Its territory covered about one-third of the land area of the United States. In order to better serve its far-flung territory, the bank opened branch offices in Seattle, Spokane, and Portland in 1917. The Spokane branch closed in 1938, but Seattle and Portland, along with branches established later in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, still operate in 2008.

The Seattle branch handled currency, processed checks, sold Treasury bonds, and made loans to banks in the northern portion of the Twelfth District. During wartime it helped local industries meet increased demand by providing loans to local banks, which then provided financing to those industries. In some cases the bank guaranteed loans made by banks to defense industries.

For its first three decades, the branch occupied leased quarters in downtown Seattle. When its operations outgrew its quarters in the Baillargeon Building in the late 1940s, the bank's board of directors decided to construct a permanent home for the branch at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Madison Street.

By authorizing a building in Seattle, the board of directors expressed their confidence in Seattle's position as a regional financial center. At the dedication ceremony for the building in April 1950, C. E. Earhart, the president of the board of directors in San Francisco, said the building was a, "testimony to the system's belief in the future of the Pacific Northwest" ("New Building is Dedicated").

The building housed the branch for more than half of a century, until operations were moved to a new building in Renton in 2008.

Sources: Howard H. Preston, "A Milestone in Washington State Federal Reserve Banking," Pacific Northwest Industry, January  1951, pp. 92-95; "New Building is Dedicated," The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 21, 1950, p. 11; "Seattle Branch Holds Open House," 12-L News, February 1951, Archives of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; "Summary for 1015 2nd AVE / Parcel ID 0939000520," Department of Neighborhoods Historical Sites Database website accessed September 18, 2008 (web1.seattle.gov/dpd/historicalsite/QueryResult.aspx?ID=-283543027)

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