July 27th, 1837: The First U.S. Mint Branch Opens in Charlotte, N.C.
In 1790, a large vein of gold nuggets was found near Concord, North Carolina. From this vein, an estimated 75 to 100 gold mines sprung up within 20 miles of Charlotte. This gold was sent to local banks, a private mint owned by the Bechtler family, or shipped to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.
To bypass the private minting, Congress funded the first branch of the Philadelphia Mint in 1836. The building, designed by William A. Strickland, was constructed in Charlotte, on West Trade Street, between Mint and Graham streets. The Charlotte Mint officially opened on July 27th, 1837.
Raw gold was processed and refined in Charlotte. It wasn’t until March 28th, 1838 that the first gold half eagle $5 dollar coin was struck. Later that year, the Charlotte Mint struck the $2 1/2 quarter eagles. Each coin was marked with a “C” mint mark.
On July 27th, 1844, the Charlotte Mint burned down. They rebuilt a single floor building in the same location and in 1849 began minting gold dollar coins.
North Carolina seceded from the Union in May of 1861, and the Confederacy took over the Charlotte mint. They continued producing coins until October of 1861. Five million dollars of gold coins were minted in Charlotte during it’s years of production.
In late October of 1861, the Confederacy turned the Mint into a hospital, and used it for military space until the end of the Civil War. During Reconstruction, federal troops used the offices.
In 1867, it became an assay office, in service until 1913. From 1917 to 1919 the building was used for the Charlotte Woman’s Club, then as a Red Cross station during World War I.
In 1931, a group of private citizens rescued the building from planned demolition raising $950 to purchase and relocate the building. The moved the building to four acres of land, donated by E.C. Griffith.
The building became the very first art museum in North Carolina, now known as the Mint Museum of Art.
Initially, there were no art collections for the museum, and donations for the renovation were scarce. Eventually people began to get into the spirit of donating. School children even donated their pennies to the cause.
When the museum opened, they had no art on display for several months. Finally, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. donated 16 American paintings, and Samuel H. Kress donated Granacci’s Madonna and Child.
Today, the museum not only displays thousands of artwork pieces, but a complete collection of the gold coins produced by the Charlotte Mint all of which are scarce or rare, making it a very valuable part of the museum.