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Crosscurrents

Care to join me in a Mint?

San Francisco has a rich history, with many groups claiming a piece of it. There’s the California Historical Society, and the Society of California Pioneers - which are not to be confused with the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society (SFMHS). Additionally, many ethnic groups and neighborhoods in the City preserve specific aspects of our past. Our history is a big draw for out-of-towners.

It may be surprising, then, to learn that San Francisco doesn’t have a central museum. The San Francisco Museum & Historical Society has been working on changing that for over a decade.

The SFMHS has the formidable task of remodeling the Old Mint at the corner of 5th & Mission in San Francisco, bringing it up to present safety codes. It sat empty for a few years before the keys were handed over in early 2004. The organization has raised, and spent, over $14 million on plans and refurbishments since then.

The Old Mint at 5th and Mission is not the Mint easily seen from Market and Broderick. That is the new one that replaced it in 1937. The Old Mint - or Granite Lady as it is known - with its sturdy Greek Revival architecture, was the only financial institution still operational following the 1906 earthquake and fire. At one time it held a third of the nation’s gold reserves. All told it operated for 63 years.

Presently only sponsored events, such as the annual SF History Expo, take place here, along with Society activities. One activity is called Sundays at the Mint, when the public can take walking tours of the building. Exhibits of photography, old and new, are also on display.

Earlier in 2014 the City of San Francisco notified the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society that it is “exploring a new development partner” for the site.  Published reports indicate that the new partner is likely to be the California Historical Society, located nearby. Any change from the present arrangement, however, will require a vote by the Board of Supervisors.

 

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