“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
Click to enlarge image of Carson City Mint building.
While each of the mint buildings is unique in its own way, the Mint at Carson City is perhaps the most unique in its formal treatment. Like the others, the prominence of entranceway is emphasized—in this case by pushing forward and projecting a small portico. The bilaterally symmetrical plan and the façade with its pedimented gable end indicate classical influences. Yet the building is detailed much unlike the others in proportions, materials, and ornaments. The windows are taller and slenderer, the rough-faced sandstone gives the façade a lively texture, and details such as the cornice and the piers of the portico all add up to a singular, unified statement.
The Carson City Mint was designed in 1866 by Supervising Architect of the Treasury Alfred Bult Mullet, and was both his first major project and the building which signaled the town’s rising importance to the national economy. Begun only eight years after the founding of Carson City in 1858, the Mint was a response to the silver boom in the Comstock Mining District. As one author suggests, the building “showed Federal recognition of the value of the mines located in the ‘hinterlands’ of Nevada.” It was the region’s first substantial building, and thus a potent sign of both the government’s authority and the town’s new wealth.
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. As the images here demonstrate, 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, designed by M.J. Curtis and S.Pisley. The tall arched windows, rough-faced stone, and gable roofs demonstrate its affinities with the Mint.
Click to enlarge Carson City: Old Nevada State Printing Office
(HABS/HAER, Library of Congress) 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.
The Old Nevada State Capitol (left), by Joseph Gosling of San Franciso. (HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)
Click here to enlarge image of Old Nevada State Capitol
Elevation drawing of the Old State Nevada Capitol (left), by Joseph Gosling of San Franciso. (HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)
Click to enlarge image of the Old State Nevada Capitol
The Old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse at Carson City, Nevada (left), by Mifflin E. Bell, Supervising Architect of the Treasury, 1883-87. (HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)
Click to enlarge image of the Old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse
The entrance arches of the Old United States Post Office and Courthouse at Carson City, Nevada, (left).(HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)
Click to enlarge image of Old United States Post Office and Courthouse