FAQ City: The Giant Vault Of Money Buried Beneath Uptown

Mar 27, 2018

It's the end of the workday in Charlotte, and a crowd of bankers and business people are heading home for the day, striding down a plain, ordinary sidewalk next to a nondescript brown building on Trade Street.

What these business people perhaps don't know is that just below their feet, about a story or two down, is a bustling underground operation and a massive, steel-encased vault containing untold billions of dollars in cash.

That's because that brown building is the Federal Reserve - one of 28 branches around the country. And if you're thinking about pulling off a heist a la Gerard Butler, think again. Charlotte's branch of the Federal Reserve is one of the most highly-secure buildings in the city, with cameras, motion detectors, security guards, and high grade locks at nearly every turn.

The vault itself is the most tightly-secured area. It's roughly three stories high and two basketball courts wide, with a door made of steel as thick as a person. Generally, humans are not allowed to step foot inside, and the Fed refuses to say exactly how much cash might be inside the vault at any given time.

On this week's FAQ City, we'll get a rare peek inside the Fed's underground operation, along with our listener Cailen Sniker, an engineer from Huntersville who wrote in the prompt for our episode ("Are there any cool underground spots in Charlotte?")

The view from inside: each of those beige currency bins can hold up to $28 million at any given time.
Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE

Special thanks to Kelly Stewart, our tour guide for this episode, as well as the rest of of the staff at the Charlotte branch of the Federal Reserve.

If you'd like to see the underground in person, the Fed offers public tours Tuesday through Thursday for school field trips and adult groups. More information here: https://www.richmondfed.org/about_us/visit_us. Just be prepared for extensive security checks.

Also, we're looking for more listener questions to investigate for upcoming episodes. Tell us what you're curious about! Submit your question in the box below, and we might just find an answer on an upcoming episode of FAQ City!

While you're at it, make sure to subscribe and rate/review the podcast on Apple PodcastsNPR One, and Google Play.

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