"The mint is located in the midst of a prosperous and rapidly growing community. Being at the railroad center of connecting lines from the principal mining sections of the State, as well as from New Mexico, the wealth of precious metals pouring in should be treated there, and settlement made with depositors. I estimate the production of Colorado alone to be at the rate of at least $15,000,000 of gold and silver per annum, and the present facilities at the Denver mint for operating upon this amount of bullion are totally inadequate.”
—Horatio C. Burchard, Director of the Mint, 1879
HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE
With the Mint Director’s approval, the path was set for a new mint building in Denver. By 1896 plans were underway for establishing the new mint. In 1904, in preparation for minting operations, the Mint was finally occupied by assayers and representatives of the Mints at Philadelphia, New Orleans, and San Francisco. The extended time between the commencement of construction and the beginning of minting operations are due to at least two factors. First, Congressional appropriations for construction and the purchase of minting equipment were slow and often at sums less than required. The second factor is exemplified in Supervising Architect Taylor’s 1902 Annual Report, in which he writes, “Only one bid having been received [for interior finishing], the Department decided in the absence of competition that the same should be rejected and new proposals asked.” Contracting for work seems to have been a concern throughout the building’s construction, thus delaying its timely completion. In his 1900 Annual Report, as another example, Taylor writes, “A contract is in force for the erection of the superstructure...but the progress made has been most unsatisfactory.”
The Historic American Buildings Survey report of 1972 states, “As one of two United States coinage Mints in operation at this date [the early 1900s], the Denver Mint can easily be defined in terms of national significance. Within the context of local history, however, the Mint has played an equally significant role, symbolizing continuity in the development of Denver from a frontier mining center to a major metropolitan area.” Indeed, one can chart the quick rise of Denver as a major outpost in the developing western U.S. through the Mint. This story echoes the fortunes of Carson City , where, we have seen, similar rapid growth in the 1860s prompted the building of a mint in that city. Although Nevada ’s mint would eventually close, Denver ’s remains in operation today, and supports public tours of its facilities to demonstrate the process of minting coins and to educate the public about the building and its role in the city’s history.
In 1971 preservationists nominated the Denver Mint to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as a “precautionary measure . . . in order to protect the existing structure” after it was learned a new mint building might be constructed. As it turns out, the mint was not transferred to new facilities, but instead the existing buildings were upgraded and expanded. Like the mints at San Francisco and Carson City, the Denver Mint has taken on symbolic associations with the early history of Denver. The NRHP report calls the Mint an “emotional landmark” for Denver, for it reminds residents of their city’s early days and its importance to the nation, and is a symbol of the federal presence.
The 1904 portion of the Denver Mint retains many of its original functions limiting considerations of reuse to the reorganization of office spaces and the like. Incremental but ongoing maintenance and preservation efforts throughout the building’s history have ensured its survival and have kept it in near original condition. Although the rear façade was destroyed by the first addition in 1935—which itself was altered and extended in 1944—the remaining facades are in excellent condition and are among the best examples of its type of restrained Renaissance classicism found in Denver.