San Francisco has selected the California Historical Society to restore the Old Mint, which dates to 1854 and was rebuilt in a classical revival style in 1874 at the intersection of Fifth and Mission Streets. The Chronicle reports that the nonprofit Historical Society, whose 1871 founding dates it to a similar era, will spend the next 18 months assessing the rehabilitation needs of the building and crafting a plan for a new cultural center on the premises.
The Old Mint ceased operations in 1937 with the opening of the new Mint (behind the Market Street Safeway), and the building operated as a museum for a period until 1994. It was owned by the federal government until 2003 when it was sold to the City of San Francisco for $1. The building has been a National Historic Landmark since 1961, but the Examiner notes that last year the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the space among the nation's 11 most endangered historic places.
Last December, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development tapped the group Activate SF to maintain the Old Mint temporarily, and the largely dormant space has been opened to the public for occasional events such as last month's San Francisco History Days.
Previous to that, another nonprofit, the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society had leased the Old Mint. Though that group hoped to perform its own restoration, after some success fundraising and cleaning out debris, the Chronicle wrote last year that the City had terminated that lease because the organization had failed to raise adequate funds or make a feasible plan for seismic upgrades and reuse of the building.
"We are going to be involved with this every step of the way,” John Lau, who is the city project manager for the Old Mint Restoration Project, told the Chron. Hinting at previous attempts, he added that, “We aren’t handing over the keys, which is what we did in the past. CHS will be a very intimate and important partner, but it is still a city project.”
Restoration could cost more than $100 million, according to Lau, with seismic upgrades a chief concern. “At the end of 18 months, we will have a reuse proposal that we would take to the policymakers," he said. "We want to turn the building into a fresh space for the community.”