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with Section 106 Section
106 in Action Archive
of Prominent Section 106 Cases California: Transfer of the Old
U.S. Mint, San Francisco
Transfer of the Old U.S. Mint,
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).
Following several months of discussion and debate, ACHP, the General
Services Administration (GSA), the California State Historic Preservation
Office (SHPO), and the city of San Francisco have reached a Programmatic
Agreement (PA) and quitclaim deed for transfer of the Old U.S. Mint from
the Federal Government to the city. The proposed deed includes covenant
language addressing future treatment of the building, and the draft PA
spells out the process by which the City will submit its development plans
to the California SHPO for approval.
While earlier drafts provided for a significant continuing review role
for ACHP, the consulting parties have agreed the California SHPO
will take on that responsibility. Drafts of the PA and quitclaim deed
have been provided to the consulting parties for review.
These developments clear the way for the city to take title to the building
prior to the selection of a developer, in accordance with the outline
of the public process envisioned in earlier drafts of the PA. San Francisco’s
Office of Economic Development, with the support of U.S. Senators Feinstein
and Boxer and U.S. Representative Pelosi, hopes to secure Federal funds
to assist in the redevelopment.
Old U.S. Mint, San Francisco, CA
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
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. The
building was transferred from the Treasury Department to GSA and was closed
to the public in December 1994.
Closure of the building sparked significant public interest, and several
public meetings regarding the potential for reuse have been held. 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 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
May 6, 2003
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