|This June 2009 photo
illustrates the restoration efforts of the old San Francisco Mint. The
glass lamp chandeliers and other ornamentation of the Meeting Room were
accurately restored according to detailed historical records and
drawings researched from federal government archives. Image
courtesy of sdstratt of Flickr.com.
When coining operations were transferred to the
third San Francisco
Mint in 1937, the life of the Granite Lady continued. Treasury and
other government employees occupied the premises until 1968, when the
building was abandoned.
A movement to demolish it gained serious momentum, but was quashed when
President Richard Nixon intervened to save the historic structure. In
1972, a partial restoration project began. The following year, the Old
Mint Museum was opened to the public, displaying collections reflective
of San Francisco's numismatic heritage.
In 1994, an analysis revealed that the October 1989 Loma Prieta
earthquake had caused structural damage to the old Mint. To make the
building less vulnerable to another round of seismic shifting, many
millions of dollars would be required to implement repairs. Again, the
Granite Lady closed its doors to the public. After nearly a decade of
fits and false starts, the city of San Francisco purchased the old Mint
from the federal government for one dollar. In the August 4, 2003
conveyance-of-the-deed ceremony held in an ornate counting room within
the beloved landmark, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown cemented the
deal with an 1879-S silver dollar, paid to officials representing the
|The Granite Lady today. Image
courtesy of superciliousness of Flickr.com.
The estimated price tag to structurally
reinforce the registered
National Historic Landmark, while restoring it to its original grandeur
and providing handicap access, was estimated at $95 million. The San
Francisco Museum and Historical Society is overseeing the
renovation project. They have set up a special site to follow progress more closely. This PDF report explains in greater
detail the goals of the renovation and is beautifully illustrated.
Planned exhibits focus on the history of the Bay Area, a "hands on"
participatory workshop, and of course, an area dedicated to the story
of the Old Mint, where once upon a time long ago, one-third of the
nation's gold reserves were housed. In addition, a new San Francisco
Visitors Information Center is being developed. When all is said and
done, organizers anticipate up to one million visitors a year to the
The $95 million is being raised through government grants and private
donations. In 2006, the US Mint sold commemorative coinage celebrating
the Granite Lady. The coins were issued in designs made of gold and
silver, seen here.
In all, a total of 57,666 gold half eagles and 272,857 silver dollars
were sold, raising nearly $5 million in surcharges that went directly
to the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society to benefit the
Even though no longer available directly from the Mint, these special
Francisco Mint commemorative coins can still be found on eBay.
Phase I of the renovation was completed in May 2011 at a cost of $13
million. Fund raising for Phase II is underway.
UPDATE: On August 1, 2015, the city of San Francisco terminated its
development agreement with the San Francisco Museum and Historical
Society, putting an end to the plan for a museum at San Francisco’s
"Granite Lady" Mint. The reason cited for the termination was the lack
of progress by the society in hitting restoration target dates. The
long term future of the landmark mint is uncertain.
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