When the Charlotte Mint Opened and Burned Down on the Same Day
It was a summer day, July 27, 1837, when the Charlotte Mint first opened for business. It was also a July 27, seven years later, when the same Mint burned to the ground. It seemed, there was something special about July 27.
The Mint in Charlotte was one of three mints opened at the same time in U.S. history, but the Charlotte Mint was special. The creation of that Mint was due to the Carolina Gold Rush, the first rush in U.S. history.
The day of July 27 would remain a day to remember around the Charlotte Mint, for better or worse.
The Carolina Gold Rush
To the north east of modern day Charlotte, North Carolina, in Cabarrus Country, a stream of water, Little Meadow Creek, cuts through the land.
In 1799, a man named John Reed owned a piece of land on that creek. Reed was previously a contracted German soldier, fighting on the losing side against the colonists in the Revolution, but had since taken residence in North Carolina. This was not uncommon after the war.
Reed’s son, Conrad, one day found a rock in the creek. He brought it home, where, after he’d had his fun with it, the heavy yellow stone became a door stop for a few years.
One of Reed’s friends, in 1802, suggested he take the stone to a jeweler, which he did. The jeweler was impressed by the 17 pound nugget, and offered Reed a whole week’s wages for it. Reed accepted, taking far too little for the chunk of metal he sold the jeweler, but it didn’t matter.
Reed wised up. He found more gold on his property, a lot more. One nugget weighed 28-pounds. Needless to say, Reed’s luck changed. He was no longer on the losing side.
What followed was a gold rush and the construction of the Reed Gold Mine, changing the area around Little Meadow Creek forever.
The gold flowing out of the Reed Gold Mine prompted President Andrew Jackson to commission a mint in Charlotte on March 3, 1835. The Charlotte Mint would be part of three mints opened to handle gold booms.
The Charlotte Mint would specifically handle the North Carolina gold boom. Construction on the Charlotte Mint began in 1836, but didn’t complete until 1837.
Opening day was July 27, 1837. All the coins produced from the Charlotte Mint would be from the gold mined in the area.
Several unique coins came from the mint, most of which fetch a good value today, especially those minted in 1844. That was a short year for the mint.
When the fire broke out on July 17, 1844, it didn’t take long to consume the building. Despite efforts to extinguish the fire by dousing it with water, the flames engulfed the top of the building, burning it to the Earth.
What remained was smoldering ashes and a few machine parts from the press. What they could salvage would enjoy a reprise the next year after the new President James K. Polk, commissioned a rebuild.
By October of 1846, the Charlotte Mint resumed printing coins. Everything was going great until North Carolina succeeded from the Union in 1861, but that was a whole different kind of heat.
After the war broke out, the Mint fell into the hands of the Confederates, who did in fact print coins for a time. Eventually, they decided the building made a better military space.
The building served many needs until it met the wrecking ball in 1931. A private group of investors in Charlotte purchased and moved the mint, making it into the Mint Museum of Art.
Interestingly, a quick check of the Museum’s calendar shows no events scheduled for the 27th of July. Talk about using gold as a door stop.