Hey! Have you wondered what the heck that big building across the street from the parking lot for the Metreon at Fifth and Mission is? Why, it's the Old San Francisco Mint! The original SF Mint was established by President Millard Fillmore in 1850, to facilitate the quicker minting of all the "that there's gold in them thar Sierra hills" business. The mint was then moved to the Fifth and Mission building in 1874, which survived the 1908 quake, but was then deemed too small for the vast coinage required for our great land, at which point the Mint moved to its current location, the bunker surrounded by barbed wire behind the Market Street Safeway.

The Old Mint was re-acquired by the City last year, and the City has been renovating it as the new location for the San Francisco History museum, much like the former main library at Larkin and McAllister that recently became the Asian Art Museum.

Free tours of the Mint are being offered this week only, on Tuesday August 10 at 6 p.m. and Saturday August 14 at 10 a.m. Meet at the front entrance, at Fifth and Mission, and the tour will go for about an hour to an hour and a half. If you go on Tuesday, the Historical Society is hosting a reception and talk by Michael Castleman, the author of The Lost Gold of San Francisco, a historical novel about the Old Mint.

picture by San Francisco Chronicle, Brant Ward