Inside The Fed's "Doomsday" Bunker

Not even a nuclear volley between the US and the USSR could have stopped the Cold War-era Fed from operating. That’s because nestled in the hills of Culpeper, Virginia was a 135,000 square foot bunker that housed some $4 billion in hard currency as well as the central hub of FedWire, the computer network which allows the nation’s banks to communicate and transfer funds. 

Constructed in 1969 in an effort to ensure the banking system could still function in the event there were still any banks left in the post-apocalyptic world, Culpeper Switch (officially the Federal Reserve System’s Communications and Records Center) was equipped with everything a Fed official would need to survive in the wake of a nuclear holocaust. 

Here’s more via Brookings:

For nearly three decades, the Federal Reserve Board operated a 139,800-square-foot (13,001 square-meter) radiation hardened facility inside Mount Pony, just east of Culpeper, Virginia. Dedicated on December 10, 1969, the 400-foot-long (122-meter) bunker is built of steel-reinforced concrete 1 foot (0.3 meters) thick. Lead-lined shutters can be dropped to shield the windows of the semi-recessed facility, which is covered by 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) of dirt, and surrounded by barbed-wire fences and a guard post. The seven computers at the facility, operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, were the central node for the transfer of all American electronic funds.


Until July 1992, the bunker, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) southwest of Washington, D.C., also served as a facility for the continuity of government. With a peacetime staff of 100, the site was designed to support an emergency staff of 540 for thirty days, but only 200 beds were provided in the men's and women's dormitories, which would be shared on a "hot-bunk" basis by the staff, working around the clock. A pre-planned menu of freeze-dried foods for the first thirty days of occupation was stored on site; private wells would provide uncontaminated water following an attack. Other noteworthy features of the facility were a cold storage area for maintaining bodies that could not be promptly buried (owing to high radiation levels), an incinerator, indoor pistol range, and a helicopter landing pad. Until 1988, Mount Pony stored several billion dollars worth of currency, including a large number of $2 bills in its 23,500-square-foot (2,186-square-meter) vault, shrink-wrapped and stacked on pallets 9 feet (2.7 meters) high. This money was to be used "to replenish currency supplies east of the Mississippi."

And from Paleofuture:

But the facility wasn’t just for use in the post-apocalyptic future. It was actively used by the Federal Reserve to route and monitor financial transactions from America’s banks throughout the 1970s and 80s. The building was dedicated in December 1969 and by August of the following year it was routing financial transactions between 5,700 banks all around the country. By the mid-1970s it was processing 25,000 messages an hour through the facility’s four computers.


It may have been designed with the apocalypse in mind, but the Fed was going to be damned sure it got its money’s worth during those pre-apocalypse years.

Here are some fun pages from the government’s Culpeper Switch booklet...



...and here are the floor plans…



Once the Soviet threat had passed, the government attempted to sell the facility. Here are the visuals from the brochure:

*  *  *

In the end, you won't be seeing Janet Yellen here in the event hostilities between Putin and the US escalate because the site has been tranformed into the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center which houses "more than 1.1 million film, television, and video items... with a collection ranging from motion pictures made in the 1890s to today's TV programs, the Library's holdings are an unparalled record of American and international creativity in moving images," but rest assured, someone is making government contingency plans somewhere and we suspect that a mere $4 billion in hard currency won't cut it in a today's post-apocalyptic QE world, so we ask: where's the new bunker and how much are they storing there?