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The 85th anniversary of the San Francisco Mint on Hermann Street

May marks the 85th anniversary of the third San Francisco Mint building. Built during the height of the Great Depression, the San Francisco Mint sits on a rocky promontory that towers over the nearby streets.

Construction in progress on the San Francisco Mint, 1936 (Credit: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library).

Construction of the US Mint site in San Francisco was a Works Progress Administration (New Deal) project under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the Great Depression, the federal works program took millions of needy unemployed men and women from the relief roles and put them to work at useful public tasks.

Crowd gathered at the beginning of construction, 1935 (Credit: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library).

The federal government purchased the site in 1934 for $82,500. Engineers made numerous tests on the site to prepare plans for an earthquake-proof structure. Construction began on August 21, 1935, starting with leveling a 90-foot rock price down to 50 feet above the street. Designed by Gilbert Underwood, the structure is a modern classical design with a frieze depicting the numismatic history of the country. The building was completed at a cost of $1,072,254, and was dedicated on May 15, 1937.

The new facility took over the production of circulating coinage, as well as occasional commemorative coins from the legendary “Old Mint” located at Fifth and Mission Streets in downtown San Francisco. The San Francisco Mint also played an important role in international monetary history as it occasionally coined money for various nations in Asia and Latin America.

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