Old San Francisco Mint

Coordinates: 37°46′58″N 122°24′26″W / 37.78278°N 122.40722°W / 37.78278; -122.40722
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Old San Francisco Mint
The Old San Francisco Mint
Alternative namesThe Granite Lady, Old Mint
General information
Architectural styleGreek Revival architecture
LocationFifth and Mission Streets, San Francisco, California
Address88 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Town or citySan Francisco
CountryUnited States
Coordinates37°46′58″N 122°24′26″W / 37.78278°N 122.40722°W / 37.78278; -122.40722
Construction startedApril 1, 1869
CompletedNovember 1874
Roof52.5 Feet
Design and construction
Architect(s)Alfred B. Mullett
Old United States Mint (San Francisco)
The old San Francisco Mint building, built in 1874
NRHP reference No.66000231
CHISL No.875
SFDL No.236
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[3]
Designated NHLJuly 4, 1961[4]
Designated CHISL1974[1]
Designated SFDL2003[2]

The Old San Francisco Mint (also Old United States Mint or simply Old Mint, nicknamed The Granite Lady) is a building that served as the location of the San Francisco branch of the United States Mint from 1874 until 1937. The building is one of the few that survived the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and resulting fire. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and as a California Historical Landmark in 1974.



The Old San Francisco Mint was the second building of the San Francisco branch, replacing the original building which had been built in 1854. The new building, which started construction on April 1, 1869, and was completed in November, 1874, was designed by Alfred B. Mullett in a conservative Greek Revival style with a sober Doric order.[5] The cost of the building was $2,130,512.[6] The building had a central pedimented portico flanked by projecting wings in an E-shape; it was built around a completely enclosed central courtyard. The roof is an average of 52.5 feet in height.[7]

Fire of 1906[edit]

The central courtyard contained a well which helped saved the structure during the fire of 1906, when the heat melted the plate glass windows. It exploded sandstone and granite blocks with which the building was faced. The building was based on a concrete and granite foundation, designed to thwart tunneling into its vaults. At the time of the 1906 fire held $300 million, fully a third of the United States' gold reserves. Efforts by Superintendent Frank A. Leach and his men preserved the building and the bullion that then backed the nation's currency. The mint resumed operation soon thereafter, continuing until 1937 when it was replaced by the current San Francisco Mint building.

Post-Mint uses[edit]

In 1961 the Old Mint, as it had become known, was designated as a National Historic Landmark.[8] It was designated as a California Historical Landmark in 1974.[1]

"The Granite Lady" nickname is inaccurate, as most of the building is made from sandstone, quarried from Newcastle Island, British Columbia. The entire external and upper stories are made of sandstone, built above a granite basement. 'The Granite Lady' was a marketing term given in the 1970s, and it became popular. The Old Mint was open to visitors until 1993, and had exhibits interpreting its history.

In 2003 the federal government sold the structure to the City of San Francisco for one dollar—an 1879 silver dollar struck at the mint— for use as a historical museum. It was to be called the San Francisco Museum at the Mint.

In the fall of 2005, ground was broken for renovations to adapt the central court as a glass-enclosed galleria. In 2006 Congress created the San Francisco Old Mint Commemorative Coin, the first coin to honor a United States mint (Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 109–230 (text) (PDF)). The first phase of renovations was completed in 2011.

Current status[edit]

In 2014, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society began raising money for the second phase, to include permanent exhibitions. In 2015, the City of San Francisco looked for a new tenant to renovate and program the space. The organization, Activate San Francisco Events, was chosen as an interim tenant.[9]

In 2016 to celebrate the public re-opening, on the first weekend in March, the Old Mint hosted a "San Francisco History Days" event; more than 60 historic organizations participated.[10] Until a new tenant is found, the Old Mint will continue to be used for special events, some open to the public. In April 2016, the California Historical Society agreed to undertake restoration of the building and its preservation as a public space.[11]


  1. ^ a b "San Francisco Mint". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  2. ^ "City of San Francisco Designated Landmarks". City of San Francisco. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  4. ^ "Old United States Mint (San Francisco)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on September 26, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
  5. ^ Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (3/2/1934 - ). California NHL Old United States Mint. File Unit: National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records: California, January 1, 1964 – December 31, 2013. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  6. ^ "Old San Francisco Mint Restoration Complete | U.S. Mint". www.usmint.gov. Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  7. ^ "Old San Francisco Mint | Hensolt SEAONC Legacy Project". Archived from the original on September 18, 2021. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  8. ^ James Dillon (March 30, 1976) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Old United States Mint, National Park Service and Accompanying six photos, exterior and interior, undated
  9. ^ "S. F. Picks Events Company to Put Some New Life Into Old Mint". Archived from the original on January 24, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  10. ^ "San Francisco History Days". Archived from the original on May 9, 2022. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  11. ^ Johnson, Lizzie (April 1, 2016). "California Historical Society to take on fixing up the Old Mint". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on September 6, 2016. Retrieved August 30, 2016.