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Old Mint Issued New Lease on Life — Again

City announces another plan to rehab the grand but fading old building, empty since 1994

Once again, someone is riding to the rescue of San Francisco’s long-neglected, long-endangered Old Mint.

The city's Office of Economic Workforce and Development announced yesterday that the onetime mint (San Francisco’s architectural equivalent of a sad puppy sitting in the rain and hoping someone will take him home) is now principally in the hands of the California Historical Society, who will spend the next 18 months assessing the building and concocting plans for the future.

A national landmarks since 1964, the mint at 5th and Mission is one of San Francisco’s grandest old buildings... and also one if its perennial civic messes. Designed by the fabulously named Alfred B. Mullet in 1874, it once held one-third of the nation’s gold reserves and produced 60 percent of the nation’s annual currency output.

But ever since the building closed to the public in 1994, it’s gone to seed. The city bought the building in 2003, but was unsure what to do with it. For nine years, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society had plans to make a museum of it, but could never attract the capital. San Francisco finally pulled the plug on them last year.

In 2015, the National Trust for Historic Preservation singled the mint out as "of the very few downtown buildings to survive the 1906 earthquake," adding that "the Granite Lady remains a commanding presence just south of Market Street."

But those accolades came by way of the Trust’s annual 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list, the mint’s second appearance on the unfortunate roster.

The California Historical Society, a non-profit predating the Old Mint by only three years itself, is based at 678 Mission Street, a historic building that was once the San Francisco Builder Exchange. While they dream up the perfect use for the prized structure , the Office of Workforce Development says it will continue to use the Old Mint as an event space.