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Barbary Coast Trail

From the days of the Gold Rush and the Barbary Coast, to the 1906 earthquake and the Beat renaissance, San Francisco’s history is rich with dynamic events and storied characters. The Barbary Coast Trail is a San Francisco walking tour that connects the City’s most important historic sites, drawing you into a world of gold seekers and railroad barons, writers and visionaries, shanghiiers and silver kings.

A series of bronze medallions and arrows embedded in the sidewalk connect the Barbary Coast Trail’s historic sites. Along a 3.5-mile path (mostly flat or gently sloping), the trail weaves its way through Downtown, Union Square, Chinatown, Portsmouth Square, Jackson Square Historic District, Old Barbary Coast, Beat San Francisco, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, ending at the San Francisco Maritime Historical National Park.

Our Barbary Coast Trail® Walk features the historic sites that made the city famous: the plaza where Sam Brannan kicked off the Gold Rush in 1848, a graveyard of Gold Rush ships buried beneath the streets, a saloon where sailors were once shanghaiied, a national landmark building that barely survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, the first Asian temple in North America, the barstool where Jack Kerouac once sat and spun his traveler’s tales, the finest Italianate Victorian buildings in San Francisco, the largest collection of historic ships in the United States, beautiful views of San Francisco Bay, and more.


Old Mint

A California Mint

On July 8, 1852, President Millard Fillmore signed an act authorizing a branch mint in California. Within a short time, Treasury Secretary Thomas Corwin chose San Francisco as the site.

Birth of the Granite Lady

By 1869, Congress had appropriated $300,000 to acquire a new site at Fifth and Mission Streets and construct a building. Plans were drawn under the supervision of Alfred B. Mullet, Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department from 1866 to 1874. Mullett's design was Classical Greek Revival, Doric columns and Roman scale and proportions. Sandstone from Newcastle Island in British Columbia was shipped in by three schooners for the facing of the upper floors and for the six colossal columns on the portico. The basement walls were of granite from the Griffith Quarry in Penryn, Placer County, California. On May 26, 1870, the cornerstone of the Mint was laid. The building opened on a rainy Saturday, November 5, 1874.

Granite Lady Saved

Mullett knew well that the Pacific Coast was subject to earthquakes, and with remarkable foresight, he designed the Old Mint to "float" on its foundations in an earthquake, rather than shatter. His vision was validated when the mint rode out the severe earthquake of Wednesday, April 18, 1906, practically undamaged. Heroic efforts by Treasury Department employees, using only a one-inch hose connected to wells that had fortunately been built just weeks earlier, saved the mint, and $200 million in gold in its vaults, from the fire that destroyed commercial San Francisco after the earthquake. With the downtown area and its banks destroyed, the San Francisco Mint was the only financial institution able to open for business in San Francisco and it became the depository and treasury for the city's relief fund.

Preserving the Old Mint

After minting operations were transferred to the new San Francisco Mint on Duboce Avenue in 1937, the Treasury Department and other government agencies occupied the building. In 1961 the "Old Mint," as it became known locally, was designated a National Historic Landmark. On January 22, 1970 a Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) Commission recommended preserving the Old Mint for court offices and a museum.

Following restoration work in 1972, the Old Mint Museum opened in the eastern half of the building, while Treasury Department offices continued to occupy the rest. In 1988, the Old Mint was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Treasury Department planned to close the building permanently in 1994 due to its operating as a museum at a deficit and the need to make seismic upgrades and security improvements, but Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein arranged a reprieve and it continued as a museum until December 30, 1995. The building then became property of the General Services Administration.

New Life for the Granite Lady

On August 1, 2001, Mayor Willie Brown established the San Francisco Old Mint Task Force to address reuse of the building. In January 2003, The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society's plan to renovate the building and establish a permanent home for the San Francisco Museum won unanimous support from the Mayor's Old Mint Task Force. In June, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow the city to take possession of the vacant property from the federal government and to enter into exclusive negotiations with the Society to turn the building into a museum.

Services Administration turned over the key to the Old Mint to the City of San Francisco. Mayor Willie Brown bought the national landmark with a borrowed silver dollar that was minted in the Granite Lady 124 years ago and in turn, the City turned it over to the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society to create the museum.
Currently, the SFMHS has mounted a capital campaign to secure funds for the renovation and museum creation. For more information, visit www.themintproject.org.



The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society welcomes our Grand Marshal LIAM MAYCLEM. Host of “Eye on the Bay” on CBS 5 TV and “The Foodie Chap” on KCBS radio.

Eye on the Bay

Our Media Sponsors:

media sponsors

The entire Walk goes on the sidewalk. Participants are asked to obey all traffic signals.





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