It Was Mint to Be

In the 1930s, some Charlotte residents fought hard to preserve a historic building that today is part of the Mint Museum of Art

 

Concern over increased circulation of counterfeit coins during Charlotte's gold mining era prompted the government to erect a local branch of the United States Mint in 1834.  The two-story stucco building, located in the 400 block of West Trade Street, was distinguished by an impressive five-foot-by-fourteen-foot eagle covered in gold leaf and mounted above the entrance.

The building was used as an assay office until it was commandeered by the Confederate government during the Civil War. Coinage never resumed following the war, but the building was used for federal courts and as the Red Cross headquarters during World War I. The classic landmark also
served as the meeting place for the Charlotte Women’s Club.

The Women’s Club members were shocked in 1933 to learn that their beloved building would be razed to make room for an expanded post office. Mary Myers Dwelle led a movement to convert the old mint into an art museum, but several proposals for preservation were rejected. Workers had already begun removing the roof, windows, and doors when Mrs. Dwelle called together a dozen influentialing. The idea was to store the bricks and stones until the Mint could be restored at another location.

Charlotte architect Martin Boyer donated his services for the restoration and carefully marked each stone as the building was dismantled. Developer E.C. Griffith donated three acres in his new Eastover suburb, and the bricks and stones were transported to their new location alongside a creek on a former dairy farm. The reconstruction was financed through a $47,000 grant from the Federal Administration for Public Works, a New Deal “make work” program that provided jobs during the Great Depression. The former assay office opened in December 1937 as the Mint Museum of Art, the first art museum in North Carolina.

The Mint Museum of Art, now a wellrespected regional museum, expanded in 1985 and the main entrance now faces the 2700 block of Randolph Road. The historic mint building, which faces Hempstead Place, was incorporated into the expansion design and remains a key part of the museum.

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