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with Section 106 Section
106 in Action Archive
of Prominent Section 106 Cases California: Old U.S. Mint Transfer
Transfer of the Old U.S. Mint,
Agency: General Services
Criteria for ACHP Involvement:
Transfer out of Federal ownership could adversely affect the Old
U.S. Mint, a National Historic Landmark (Criterion 1).
The building is a much-beloved local landmark, and its proposed
transfer has created substantial public controversy related to historic
preservation issues (Criterion 3).
In an onsite meeting in late May 2001, ACHP staff, the General Services
Administration (GSA), and the consulting parties discussed the terms of
a proposed Programmatic Agreement (PA) for transfer of the Old U.S. Mint
from the Federal Government to the City of San Francisco.
Old U.S. Mint, San Francisco, CA
In its current form, the PA and associated documents call for the city
to implement a public process of soliciting proposals for redevelopment
of the building. A mayoral task force, on which ACHP staff would serve,
would be empowered to review the proposals and make a recommendation to
the Mayor on which proposal should be selected for acceptance by the Citys
Board of Supervisors.
The consulting parties have until mid-June to provide written comments
on the draft PA, which will be considered by GSA, the city, the California
State Historic Preservation Office, and ACHP in crafting a final
document for execution.
The Old U.S. Mint was completed in 1874 and was designed by Alfred B.
Mullett, who, as Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department, oversaw
the design and construction of more than 40 Federal buildings across America.
A massive masonry building in the Classical Revival style, the Old U.S.
Mint was constructed to house the large quantities of gold and silver
that flowed from mines in California and other parts of the West during
the late 19th century.
At one time, fully one-third of the United States gold reserve
was stored in its vaults, which are still extant in the basement. In 1906,
Treasury Department employees and the United States Army, working with
only a one-inch hose connected to two wells on the property, saved the
buildingalong with $200 million in gold stored in its vaultsfrom
the fire that followed the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
After minting operations were transferred to a new facility in 1937,
the building was occupied by the Treasury Department and other Federal
agencies. In 1972, the Old Mint Museum opened in the eastern half of the
building while Treasury Department offices occupied the remainder of the
building. Following transfer of the building from the Treasury Department
to GSA, it was closed to the public in December 1994. Closure of the building
sparked significant public interest.
Several public meetings regarding the potential for reuse have been held,
with the active participation of Senators Boxer and Feinstein. GSAs
current plan is to transfer the building out of Federal ownership, and
the City of San Francisco has expressed interest in obtaining it.
Since GSA initiated Section 106 consultation in Spring 2000, a number
of groups and individuals have participated in consultation, including
the National Trust for Historic Preservation, San Francisco Architectural
Heritage, the San Francisco Architectural Landmarks Preservation Advisory
Board, the Museum of the City of San Francisco, and former Treasury Department
Of particular concern to the consulting parties is the estimated expense
to reuse the building. Rehabilitation costs will be substantial, particularly
given the need to seismically retrofit the building, which will cost $20
to $37 million. GSA has cited its inability to secure funding for this
purpose as the primary reason for not retaining the building in its inventory.
ACHP staff and GSA have been exploring creative solutions to the issue
of preservation covenant enforcement. The proposed draft PA reflects a
substantial level of ongoing ACHP staff involvement in the review and
analysis of development proposals as well as the review of construction
drawings and specifications.
In addition, the agreement calls for GSA and ACHP to work cooperatively
to enforce the preservation convenants once the property has been transferred
out of Federal ownership and control.
Staff contact: Ralston Cox
June 6, 2002
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