Carson City Mint

Carson City, NV Mint building photograph, entrance facade

Caron City Mint Building, black and white, front entrance
After a personal inspection of this building...I believe it to be one of the most faithfully and economically constructed buildings in the United States; indeed, I am surprised at the result accomplished, when the enormous prices of labor and material and the difficulties and embarrassments incident to insufficient appropriations are considered. - Alfred B. Mullett, Supervising Architect, 1869.

Carson City, NV Old Printing Office, rear elevation

Caron City printing office. 2 story stone building.
While modest in scale - it measures just 58’ by 88' - and architectural treatment, the building nevertheless had a local influence on architecture in the decades after its completion. The Mint’s formal distinctions affected the stylistic image of several other important buildings in Carson City. The Old Nevada State Capitol of 1869-71, the Old State Printing Office of 1885-86, and the Old Post Office of 1888-91, all owe a debt in part to the Mint for their composition and detailing. The Old Nevada State Printing Office, Carson City (shown here), designed by M.J. Curtis and S.Pisley, with the tall arched windows, rough-faced stone, and gable roofs demonstrate its affinities with the Mint

Old Nevada State Capitol

Nevada State Capitol
The Old Printing Office and Capitol are closely related to Mullet’s branch mint: all three are organized around a central rectangular mass with projecting wings, employ gabled roofs and rough-faced stone, and utilize tall, narrow windows. The Old Post Office and Courthouse, on the other hand, participates more closely with national trends in the architecture of its time. A Historic American Buildings Survey report matter-of-factly states that it is “a late-nineteenth century building of picturesque composition with interesting brick details.” Some of these details, however, such as the coupled piers on the entrance arcade, recall the Mint.

Architects drawing of the Nevada State Capitol

Drawing of Nevada State Capitol
Elevation drawing of the Old State Nevada Capitol, by Joseph Gosling of San Franciso. (HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)​

Photograph of the Old Post Office building in Carson City

Photograph, Carson City Post Office bhilding
The Old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse at Carson City, Nevada, by Mifflin E. Bell, Supervising Architect of the Treasury, 1883-87. (HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)

Photograph of the entrance archways of the Old Post Office building in Carson City, Nevada

Carson City Post Office arched entrance
The entrance arches of the Old United States Post Office and Courthouse at Carson City, Nevada.(HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)​

A black & white engraving of the carson city mint

Engraving of Carson City Mint
"​Most of its coins are scarce to rare, some of them being tremendous rarities...All of these coins, whatever their rarity or market value, carry romantic associations with the Old West and the great bonanza years of the late 19th century... [They] never fail to stir visions of grizzled prospectors, callous gunslingers and instant millionaires. The era in which the Carson City Mint produced coins is perhaps the most fabled in American history.” - Historic American Building Survey (HABS) report.

A view of 2nd & Carson Streets in Carson City

2nd and Carson Streets, Carson City. Black and white photograph.
Before a branch mint was founded at Carson City silver and gold ore mined in the Nevada territory was shipped to San Francisco for processing at that city’s mint. Mine owners had to contend with bandits and the cost of shipping through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1862 they began petitioning Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase and Congress for a mint in Nevada. By 1866 the architectural plans, drawn up under Supervising Architect Alfred B. Mullett, finally arrived in town and construction began. Although $150,000 had been appropriated for the project, the higher costs in the western United States slowed construction until more money became available.

Carson City, NV street view c. 1880 of King Street

Street view of King Street, Carson City.
Mullett wrote in his Annual Report of 1868 that “the superintendent [of construction] has acted with strict integrity as regards his expenditures, though, from the anxiety he shared in common with the citizens of Nevada to secure the erection of the building, he led the department to believe that it could be erected for a much less sum than has been found necessary, work having been once suspended, and only resumed on his promise to complete the building within the amount of the original estimate.” Nonetheless, Mullett said the building was “a handsome and convenient structure . . . and will be, excepting the one at New Orleans, the most convenient branch mint in the country.”

Old Annex of Carson City Mint

Annex building of Carson City Mint
The addition to the mint, a rather utilitarian annex structure, was constructed in 2 phases between 1878 and 1881 to house the boiler room, carpentry shop, storerooms and refinery. In 1971 the annex was taken down and replaced with a more modern but less architecturally sympathetic addition.

Annex Addition to the Carson City Mint

Annex of Carson City Mint, additional building in rear.
In the early 1970's a new annex addition to the rear of the building replaced an earlier annex structure from the 19th century. The mint building was retrofitted to withstand earthquakes, but remains in good condition close to its original state. The museum has capitalized on the building’s original function by maintaining many of the mint’s machines, such as dies, and samples of its coins. The basement holds the museum’s most popular exhibit, a recreation of a Nevada mine, which, as one author notes, were “the very lifeblood of this region during its most fabled days.” The success of preservation in this case is due, then, in large part to the museum’s concept of reuse, which uses the building itself to interpret and present the history of the region and the state of Nevada. In this way, only minor physical changes to the building were needed to accomplish new objectives while retaining a sense of the past.