Click to enlarge image of the Denver Mint as completed under Supervising Architect John Knox Taylor. (National Archives)
“Established by an Act of Congress on April 21, 1862, the Denver Mint opened for business in 1863 as a United States Assay Office. Operations began in the facilities of Clark, Gruber & Company . . . [but] the Denver plant performed no coinage of gold as first intended. One reason given by the Director of the Mint . . . was ‘ the hostility of the Indian tribes along the routes, doubtless instigated by rebel emissaries (there being a Civil War) and bad white men.”
—Treasury Department Fact Sheet on the Denver Mint
A full-fledged mint was intimated with the Mint Director’s 1879 annual report, which stated that the old building housing the Denver Assay Office “is in an unsuitable condition for minting purposes. The irregular and unequal settling of the foundations has caused the walls to crack to such an extent as to render the edifice unsafe for the employees and the government property contained therein. Provision should be made, not only to restore the building, but to provide additional facilities for manipulating the precious metals.”
Click to enlarge elevation drawing of the Denver Mint, designed under Supervising Architect William Martin Aiken, 1896. (National Archives)
In 1895 Congress appropriated money for the purchase of a site for a branch mint, and by 1896 the Supervising Architect’s Office was at work on the designs. The early drawings for the building showing the initial ideas for its design are signed with William Martin Aiken’s name as Supervising Architect. The construction and details, however, were carried out under James Knox Taylor, as evidenced by his name on the later drawings. Nonetheless, the differences between the initial designs and the executed building are small, and pertain almost exclusively to minor interior arrangements. The numerous detail drawings show the attention to ornamental concerns in public rooms, opposed to the utilitarian treatment of most manufacturing rooms.
Click to enlarge elevation drawings for the Post Office at Clarksville, Tennessee, by William Aiken, 1986 This small building differs from Aiken's more classical designs, and demonstrates that there was a flexibility of stylistic choices under his tenure as Supervising Architect. (National Archives)
Click to enlarge the photograph of the Villard House in New York, by the architecture firm McKim, Mead and White, completed in 1884 (HABS/HAER, Library of Congress)