Historic Structures

United States Mint - Nevada State Musuem Carson City Nevada

Date added: August 4, 2017 Categories: Nevada Museum Industrial

The plans, specifications and authorization papers for the construction of the mint arrived in Carson City on July 17, 1866. Ground was broken the next day at 8:00 a.m., and the cornerstone laid on September 24th 1866. Delays in appropriations, labor disputes, high costs, etc. plagued the construction, but on December 13, l869 after an inspection, the architect, Alfred Bult Mullett, pronounced the building completed to his satisfaction.

Many of the original drawings, both for the building and the mint machinery housed therein, are preserved in the Nevada State Museum.

Construction began on the Mint on July 18, 1866, and the Carson Daily Appeal prophesied that the building would be completed by winter. However, the initial construction took over three years to complete.

Abraham Curry, Superintendent of Construction, first hired Chinese laborers to do the work, but was forced under pressure from the townspeople to hire Occidentals at a far higher rate. By the winter of 1866-67, only the footings, extending seven feet below the basement floor, had been laid. Work was suspended until April 9, l867 because of the severe Nevada winters. When it was resumed, work proceeded rapidly, and the roof was on by December. However, finances were in a precarious state, and on December 5, Curry left for Washington to plead for more funds for the building and its machinery. He was successful in his efforts and by the summer of 1868, the interior cabinet work was being completed. Most of the machinery arrived in November 1868, and by the end of that year, all that remained to be built was the chimney stack. The fire brick had arrived too late for construction that winter; consequently the stack was not finished until the spring of 1869. On November 1, l869, Curry, who had by now become Superintendent of the Mint itself, in addition to being superintendent of its construction, made a test of the machinery, and found it to be operational. In December, Architect Mullett pronounced the building complete.

The Mint is constructed of sandstone blocks from the Nevada State Prison Quarry, (which had been opened originally by Curry). The common brick, used in interior partitions, the cupola, etc. came from the Adams Brick Works in nearby Genoa., Nevada, Fire brick for the furnaces and stacks was ordered from England. By. the end of 1869, the total expenditure on the structure was $426,787.66.

Thompson and West, in their History of Nevada give the following description of the Mint and its construction:

"Granite from the prison stone quarry. Pict (sic) style of architecture. Portico, Ionic. Hall, twelve feet in width; main hall 12 x 40; on the right of the entrance. Paying Teller's office, 13 x 16 feet. Coining room, 19 x 19. Spiral staircase conducts above. Whitening room, 10 x 14 1/2 with a vault in solid masonry 5 x 6. Annealing furnace and rolling room, 17 x 24. Gold and silver melting room, 10 x 24. Melters and refiner's office, 12 x 19 feet. Deposit melting room, 14 1/2 x 19. Deposit weighing room, 19 x 19, with a strong vault 6 1/2 x 10 1/2 feet. Treasurers' office, 13 x l6, with a vault five feet square. Engine room, 16 1/2 x 53 feet. Beside which there is a cabinet, adjusting room, ladies' dressing room, watchman's room two store-rooms attic, basement. As a preventive against fire the floors are double, with an inch of mortar between. The foundations are seven feet below the basement floor and laid in concrete. Building two and a half stories high."

In his report to the Treasury Department on December 13, 1869, Mullett, while announcing the building completed, noted that additions would be needed in the near future. In November 1873, the Director of the United States Mint came to Carson City from Washington to investigate the possibility of enlarging the facility. He recommended immediate expansion, but funds for the addition were not yet forthcoming. However, early in l874 the Superintendent of the Carson City Mint added new tanks, furnaces, and chimneys, and was able to double the refinery's output. In 1875, another Washington official inspected the facility and recommended its enlargement, and again no funds were appropriated. In January 1876, the Superintendent of The Mint went to Washington to seek funding. He got Representative Woodburn of Nevada to introduce a bill requesting $200,000 for the purpose, but the bill was defeated.

Finally, in October 1878, work on the addition was begun. The old boiler room was. demolished and. a 64' x 27' stone wing added in its stead. The addition housed a new and enlarged boiler room, an engine room, carpentry shop, and storeroom. The addition, in 1878, was only one story in height. In September l88l, construction was commenced on a second floor to the rear wing, to house a new refinery. This was completed in November l88l.

The Carson City Mint was made an Assay Office in 1899, and remained so until 1933. It was then used by the United States Government as an office for the Works Project Administration. In 1939 the building was sold to the State of Nevada for Museum usage.

The Mint was first remodelled for museum use in l94l. Work began on February 2 and the building was dedicated and opened to the public in October. The "remodelling" consisted primarily of repairing and renovating, rather than completely altering the building. The original iron shutters, the granite stairway, vaults, etc. were left in place. In 1959 the Clark J. Guild Hall, containing additional exhibit space, was built to the southwest of the building; directly behind the main block and south of the rear wing, with which it shared a common wall. In 1971 the rear wing which had been added in 1878-81 was demolished and replaced by the John W. Calhoun Annex, which includes both exhibit areas and administrative offices of the museum. Stone from the demolished rear wing (which is also sandstone from the Nevada State Prison Quarry), was used in a wall around the parking lot on the northwest corner of the block, as coping for the annex, and also in the new Ormsby House Hotel in Carson City. The Nevada State Museum has the plans for the work done in 1959, in 1971, and for the earlier remodelling work done on the Mint building itself.

Many historic people are involved in the story of the Carson City Mint. The first superintendent, who had earlier been the Superintendent in charge of building, was Abraham Curry, the founder of Carson City. Instrumental in having the Mint established were Nevada's first two Senators, William B. Stewart and James W. Nye.

A list of the Superintendents of the Crason City Mint and the years in which they were appointed, is found on page 104 of Mint Mark "CC". The same volume also lists, on page 102, all of the first employees of the mint.

Perhaps the most famous, or infamous, "event" connected with the structure was the scandal of l895, during which it was revealed that some $75,000 had been taken from the mint by several employees Details of the affair are told both in Mint Mark "CC" and in Davis' The History of Nevada.