Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Afternoon Tea at the Old Mint

There are a lot of places in SF to find afternoon tea. It may be surprising to some, but afternoon tea is a popular fundraiser for charities. We attended the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society's afternoon tea and silent auction event. The event was catered and our menu included scones, sandwiches, and desserts. There was also tea and sparkling wine for drinks. 

We were lucky enough to share our four top table with two lovely ladies. One was a member of the Society and she had brought her friend. Neither JK or Angela knew much about this charity, so we quizzed our tablemates to get the scoop. The proceeds from the tea tickets and the silent auction go towards the refurbishment of this stately piece of SF history. The tables were preset when we arrived and chose our seats. The waiters poured us each a glass of sparkling wine and we chatted a moment, perusing our pamphlets before our table offered a toast and began eating.

Our lovely table, set up with gift bag and tea service.
The scones.
Sandwiches (plate one).

The sweets.
Gift Bag Contents from Peerless.
Angela had visited the Old Mint for a SF neighborhood event and scoped out the building, but she was excited to learn more (facts and fiction!) on the guided tour Tea Time had signed up for after tea. There was varied entertainment, provided by a Dickens Faire choir in full costume as well as other minstrels and an Old Saint Nick character who interacted with the crowd. Guests were able to wander the main level and basement at will, however there were three guided tours of the lowest level and Tea Time jumped at the chance to acquire more local knowledge.

A bit of history about "The Granite Lady".* 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. 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. Architect Alfred B. 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. 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 Boxer and Feinstein arranged a reprieve and it continued as a museum until December 30, 1995. 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.

Old Saint Nick spreading Holiday cheer.
Welcome to Afternoon Tea.

Stay in character with a song in your heart.
Music for the season.
Holiday Carols in an Olde Englishe style.
Cheers to History!

Used for crushing gold.
Testing the acoustics, great sounds.

Families and the hoi polloi attend these events.

A glimpse into the past?
The Old Mint also supports artists. You can see the displays provided by the Historical Society reflecting their research into the history of Afternoon Tea as well as the "Money" art that was the current exhibit at the time in our pictures below. Additionally there is plenty refurbished architectural elements to fascinate history buffs. They offer tours of the building that are open to the general public, although they are free to Society members.

It's all about money, honey.

History lives!

Local art on display when Tea Time visited the Mint.
The silent auction and history of tea displays provided by the Historical Society were entertaining and illuminating. Tea Time bid on the tea pot gift box from Peerless, but we didn't win. Maybe next time!

Proceeds from the Silent Auction go towards restoring the Old Mint.
Peerless also provided the tea and chocolates for the goodie bags.

A wide variety of auction items.

A samovar and tea.
Antique Asian tea accessories.
Tea tins of all shapes, sizes and ages.

Tea Display by the Historical Society.

Learn more about Tea and History!

Tea Time enjoyed their guided tour and extra info about the history of the Old Mint. If you get the chance to attend an event at this architectural gem grab it. Thank you to the Historical Society for maintaining this landmark venue and helping to integrate history into our daily lives by restoring it plus sponsoring artists and events. We look forward to visiting again in the future.

*Information taken from the website of the Old Mint.

Ho Ho Ho.

Update: March 2013

It's not afternoon tea, but you can get in and check out the Old Mint at an upcoming event in April.