Since 1923, when it moved to its current location, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has been an irreplaceable part of the city's skyline. Inside the hulking edifice is a historic national landmark, built in an adapted fortress-palace style of the Italian Renaissance. Hundreds of employees do their part to keep the nation's internal economy running as smoothly as possible. As the headquarters of the Fourth Federal Reserve District, the bank provides check processing (machines sort 90,000 checks per hour and more than two million every day), electronic payments (more than $50 billion processed daily), and currency distribution to banks and other financial institutions throughout the district, which includes Ohio and parts of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Tours are available, but reservations must be made in advance.
This eye-popping piece of art is difficult to miss. With a large red handle and a stamp bearing the word "FREE," the artwork has always been the center of controversy. Artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen created the massive 28'-by-48' steel and aluminum sculpture in 1985 for Standard Oil of Ohio. Originally planned to be located on Public Square in front of the old SOHIO building, the stamp was placed in a storage facility in Indiana after SOHIO underwent a change of management. BP America, which later assumed management of SOHIO, donated the stamp to the city of Cleveland. The artists protested the stamp's relocation from its original planned site, but later agreed to place it at its current location of Willard Park, just east of City Hall. The Free Stamp was officially inaugurated on Nov. 15, 1991, with the approval of then-Mayor Michael R. White.