In truth, the Mint, located at 88 Fifth Street, isn’t exactly a secret; indeed, it’s pretty tough to miss.
But since it closed its doors to regular visitors almost 25 years ago, chances are most San Franciscans have had scarce opportunity to step inside.
Testa was on-site for an unidentified video shoot and paused to take in a little extra personal footage for a five-minute vlog that shows off the Granite Lady in all of its faded luster.
“It’s a beautiful building,” he tells the camera, but acknowledges that its grandeur is in rather bad shape these days. “I don’t know if I’m urban exploring or if I’m in a Wes Anderson movie,” Testa says.
Still, Testa’s quick camera work shows off the divine morning light playing on the front columns, the gritty texture of the main entrance steps, the faded but still potent luster of the stairway railings, and the gleam of the aging tile floors and still sumptuous moldings.
Despite the broken plaster and grimy windows, it’s clear that this is a building not beyond rescue. There are even a few singular artifacts of its days of regular operation, like the safe wall that still bears the impression of the countless rolls of pennies once stored there.
All of this attention poses the question: Just what IS going on with the Mint these days?
In a strictly practical sense, not much. In 2016 the California Historical Society placed its sheltering hands over the long neglected landmark and said it would spend 18 months assessing the building’s many possible futures.
Since that 18 month period is not yet up, the opportunity for a mint refreshment remains in limbo. The most recent update on CHS’ website says:
CHS has already performed initial feasibility studies and [...the next phase] will include conducting a capital campaign feasibility study, developing a full business and financial plan, market study and revenue analysis, and designing of a Community Cultural Commons among other priorities.
Through an agreement with the City and CHS, the work will be conducted over the next two years, with the result being a full reuse and rehabilitation proposal of the Old Mint that will be submitted to City policy-makers for review and approval, as needed.
So until the red tape unspools, the Old Mint is left to do what it does best these days: wait. But at least it’s still ready for its closeup.