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Turning the Old Mint Into Gold Plaza

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Introducing Curbed SF's newest series Curbed's Could Have Been, where we investigate some of the most outlandish and grandiose proposals that were never built. Know of a plan that never saw the light of day? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.

Mario Ciampi's design for the Old Mint site, 1958 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

When the New Mint was constructed near Duboce in 1936, the Old Mint at 5th and Mission was left only partially occupied by the Treasury Department and other government agencies. The site was ripe for development proposals, including one by Modernist master Mario Ciampi to turn the property into a park surrounded by new buildings.

Designed by Mario Ciampi (of Cal's Art Museum and the city's 1963 downtown plan fame), the proposal called for a park with pools, trees, flowers, and benches. New office buildings would be constructed around it, but the columns of the Old Mint would be preserved. The new location would be known as "Gold Plaza." The idea was a park could boost the value of surrounding property, which as early as the 1950s was starting to depreciate.

The idea of tearing down the "Granite Lady" fueled a preservation campaign (one of the first in San Francisco), and in 1961 the Old Mint was designated a National Historic Landmark. The threats didn't end there though - in 1969 the building was declared a government surplus building and San Francisco State College asked to be given the building so that it could use the property for a new campus. In the end, the Old Mint was preserved for court offices and a museum.

· Plan Offered for Mint Site Plaza, Feb 28, 1958 [Oakland Tribune]
· History of the Old Mint [Oldmint.org]