Viewed from the harbor, with the high rises extending far above the city's centuries-old core, Boston's Financial District suggests a hub of present-day money and power. Nestled in the downtown area near Chinatown and Government Center, the city's own "Wall Street" is home not only to the Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, but a myriad of financial institutions and brokerage firms. This is the heart of the city's financial bustle and the origins of its economic pulse and commercial activity.
Although Boston was founded almost 400 years ago, this downtown area was formed only after the creation of the financial and insurance industries in the 1800s. Still standing are structures built after the Great Fire of 1872, which obliterated most of the district, alongside massive steel and glass skyscrapers grown out of post-World War II commercial construction. With the waterfront and Essex, State, and Tremont Streets as approximate exterior boundaries, the district covers less than half a square mile of ground.
Active and crowded during business hours with thousands of dark suit-clad brokers rushing through, the district also offers a variety of entertainment, shopping, and restaurant choices at any hour. "Downtown Crossing" became one of the most popular areas in the city after a major revitalization project in the 1980s transformed it into a pedestrian-only district. Easily accessible with nearby stops of all four "T" lines, it offers an abundance of shopping opportunities with 1.3 million square feet of retail space (and more under way), occupied by some 200 retailers and 300 independent jewelers. Also close by is Filene's Basement - America's original bargain retailer of designer clothes – which has occupied the spot at 426 Washington Street since 1909. Today it is one of Boston's premier tourist destinations, boasting 15,000-20,000 shoppers daily.
While not primarily a residential neighborhood, the Financial District is home to some of the city's largest and finest hotels. For the lunch and dinner visitors, there are over a hundred restaurants to please the palate, among them Radius on High Street, ranked among the top ten of the city's restaurants by Boston Magazine, and Bond in the exclusive Langham Hotel on Franklin Street.
Financial District's Notable Attractions:
The Federal Reserve Bank - (600 Atlantic Avenue, near South Station) The Boston Fed is one of our country's 12 Federal Reserve Banks, which together with the Board of Governors in Washington D.C. make up the United States central bank. The purpose of the central bank is to promote economic growth and financial stability as it conducts research and ensures that regulations are followed.
Although the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston no longer offers public tours, it offers economic education programs for both school children and adults (business groups and bankers, teachers and community groups, etc.). The "New England Economic Adventure", located at the Bank, includes a hands-on "economic education laboratory" to educate students about economics, economic history, and personal finance. It also includes a theater and a learning center with interactive programs, games, and exhibits. All visits have to be arranged in advance and are usually limited to school groups. A virtual version of the adventure program can be found at www.economicadventure.org.
The Boston Stock Exchange - (100 Franklin Street) The Boston Stock Exchange (BSE) was established in 1834 and is one of the oldest stock exchanges in the country. It plays a vital role in the U.S. securities market, trading some 2,000 nationally listed equities. In addition, it trades over 200 high growth stocks that are specifically listed on BSE, and most of which are tied to New England based companies. Many also assert that the birth of the mutual fund concept took place at the Boston Stock Exchange.
Trading takes place Monday through Friday from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm, and the visitors gallery is open to the public in groups of 20 or less (with appointment only). Admission is free, but reservations should be made at least a month in advance.
Post Office Square - (intersection of Congress Street and Milk Street) In Post Office Square you'll find one of the world's best plazas and squares, according to PPS ("Project for Public Spaces") - the 1.7 acre Norman B. Leventhal Park located at the center of the otherwise concrete-laden financial district has won multiple planning and architectural awards. Visitors can enjoy lunch jazz concerts in the park during the summer months. Also, the "Sip Café" is open from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm, Monday-Friday, and Saturdays in summer.
Since established in 1992, the park has added beauty and charm to this inner city district, and has attracted activity and bustle also for the "after business" hours.
Below ground is a parking garage, open 24/7, all year.
Custom House Tower - (State Street between India Street and John F Fitzgerald Surface Street) The Custom House Tower was Boston's first skyscraper, initially finished in 1847, with a tower added in the early 20th century. It remained the tallest building in the city until 1947 when surpassed by the Prudential Tower. The Custom House was constructed near the city docks, in close proximity to the ships and cargo, to facilitate inspections. Now used as a time-share hotel owned by Marriott, it has an observation deck on the 25th floor for spectacular views of the city and the harbor.
- Subway Stop: "The T" (subway) stop: Aquarium/ Financial District (Atlantic Avenue and State Street)