Wielding a Mexican land grant for some 44,000 acres, John Sutter arrived at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers in 1939 and established Sutter’s Fort with dreams of its one day becoming a major Western commercial center. That vision would be realized but not in the way John Sutter hoped. In January of 1848 Sutter sent an employee, James W. Marshall, to the banks of the American River to construct a sawmill. Marshall found a flake of gold and within months men from across America were headed for the Sierra foothills. The California Gold Rush prospectors overran Sutter’s land and slaughtered his herds of livestock. By 1849 Sutter had given up on his empire, placed his son in charge of the business and retired.
Sutter’s Embarcadero (Spanish for “landing”) became Sacramento and the town grew rapidly as a trading and supply center for the gold fields. In 1850, the first California census counted 6,820 people in Sacramento. It was a bustling place but there wasn’t much thought to making it the capital of the new state of California. For one thing the rivers flooded nearly every year, several times taking the fledgling city with it. And a devastating fire could be counted on every couple of years as well in the early days. The first, in 1852, burned everything from the waterfront up to 9th Street.
The Spanish capital had been in Monterey and the 1849 Constitutional Convention for the new State of California was held there. San Jose got the nod as state capital but the government types turned out not to like it. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a Californian military commander, politician, and rancher, promised a suitable capital at his namesake town of Vallejo but he was unable to pull it together so when Sacramento made a bid in 1854 the Legislature accepted.
Not that the matter was settled in everybody’s eyes. There would be talk about moving the capital well into the 1900s from places like Berkeley and San Jose and Monterey but after over 150 years the matter seems likely settled. Sacramento is now the sixth largest city in California with 466,000 people and over 73,000 of them work for the state government.
So although we will explore the cobbled streets and historic buildings from the town’s beginnings in Old Sacramento it is appropriate that our walking tour will begin where the California government has operated for the better part of 140 years...
California State Capitol
10th Street and L Street
In California’s infancy there was haggling over its capital site and finally after several moves Sacramento was chosen as the permanent site in 1854. Reuben Clark, leaning heavily on the United States Capitol building, completed architectural plans in 1856. More haggling over the siting of the capitol building, budget constraints and debates over the originality of Clark’s plans, which he prepared in the office of M. Frederic Butler, all conspired to delay construction. Butler got the architect’s fee of $1,500 and Clark was designated supervising architect and building finally got under way in 1861. Work continued for more than a dozen years, including the hauling of the 30-foot granite Corinthian columns from the waterfront ten blocks away by a steam-powered tractor. The Capitol originally included all three branches of government but today only the governor’s office and the legislative chambers are located here.
TURN AND WALK ACROSS 10TH STREET IN FRONT OF THE CAPITOL INTO THE CIRCULAR DRIVE.
Capitol Extension Group
In 1928 these Neoclassical twins were added to the California government armada; to your right with your back to the Capitol is the Library and Courts Building and opposite it is Office Building No. 1, also known as the Jesse Unruh Building. Architect Charles Peter Weeks and engineer William Peyton Day, famous for their elegant work on San Francisco’s Nob Hill, executed the works in Sierra white granite quarried in Madera County and decorated the buildings with classical terra-cotta ornamentation. The facade of the Library and Courts Building boasts what was America’s largest pediment at the time of its installation. The group of 17 figures was carved from granite by New York sculptor Edward Field Sanford, Jr. A circular drive with a fountain provides a graceful division of the state workplaces.
RETURN TO THE CAPITOL BUILDING AND WALK AROUND THE BUILDING TO YOUR LEFT ALONG L STREET. ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE CAPITOL IS...
1121 L Street at northwest corner of 12th Street
Kenneth Mac Donald and Gustav Albert Lansburgh designed this ornate Spanish Renaissance-styled hotel in 1924 that catered to the town’s political crowd. A favorite gathering spot was around the hotel’s 86-foot bar. Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter all signed the guest register before the hotel shuttered in the 1980s and was converted into an office building.
CONTINUE AROUND TO THE REAR OF THE CAPITOL TO EXPLORE...
bounded by L and N streets and 10th and 15h streets
Capitol Park is decorated with trees from all over the world, such as the Dawn Redwood, a conifer that once blanketed the entire Northern Hemisphere but was thought to have been extinct for millions of years until a stand of 1000 trees was discovered in a remote province of south-central China in 1941. There are several gardens within the park including a Civil War Memorial Grove planted in 1897 with saplings from famous Civil War battlefields. There are war memorials to California’s veterans and a life-sized statue of Father Junipero Serra, the Spanish missionary who helped colonize California and began the system of 21 missions in San Diego.
EXIT THE PARK ON THE SOUTH SIDE ONTO N STREET, AT 13TH STREET
This Westminster Presbyterian Church
1300 N Street at southeast corner of 13th Street
Sacramento architects Charles F. Dean and James Somerville Dean designed this Spanish Eclectic church on two city lots in 1927 with a a bell-shaped dome and a square 116-foot tall campanile. Two Queen Anne residences were sacrificed in the process. Charles Dean was a leading cheerleader for the Spanish revival style that had been introduced in San Diego’s Panama American celebration in 1915. The exterior is dressed in stucco with pre-cast cement ornamentation.
TURN RIGHT AND WALK WEST ON N STREET, BACK TOWARDS THE CAPITOL BUILDING.
1100 N Street at southeast corner of 11th Street
Scattered among the government office buildings around the State Capitol are a number of large residential buildings and in 1926 Manuel and Anna Lewis put up $350,000 to build the biggest and most expensive in Sacramento. George Sellon, the first California State Architect, delivered an Italian Renaissance design for the seven-story, square building to house the town’s 38 most luxurious apartments.
Blue Anchor Building
1400 10th Street at southwest corner of N Street
Busy Sacramento architects Leonard F. Starks and Edward Flanders designed this stuccoed Spanish Colonial structure with a red tile roof in 1932. It was constructed for the California Fruit Exchange that was organized in 1901 to promote produce sales and negotiate freight rates with the railroads. The building takes its name from a polychromatic tile mosaic on the first floor landing of a blue anchor, the insignia of the Exchange. The fruit growers stayed until 1966 and the building has housed state personnel ever since.
Library & Courts II Building
900 N Street at southeast corner of 9th Street
This 1994 structure was created to provide extra space for both the State Library with its five million items and the Third District Court of Appeal.
800 N Street at southeast corner of 8th Street
“I have planned that long after I shall have crumbled into dust the...establishment founded by me at Palo Alto shall endure,” said Leland Stanford, former governor of California and president of the Central Pacific Railroad. He was speaking, of course, about his horse-breeding farm. But that was before his 15-year old son died of typhoid fever and he decided to start a university in his memory. Stanford purchased this house in 1861 for $8,000 before taking office as the state’s eighth governor and it served as the executive office. It was originally a two-story Italianate house but Stanford raised the ground floor up a story to help during the regular flooding of Sacramento streets before a comprehensive flood control plan was enacted in 1880 - Stanford himself needed a rowboat to attend his inauguration at the Capitol. Leland Stanford died in 1893, before the first class of Stanford University graduated, and his wife Jane donated the house to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento to use as an orphanage.
TURN LEFT ON 8TH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON O STREET.
704 O Street at southeast corner of 7th Street
Nathaniel Dudley Goodell learned his architecture in Amherst, Massachusetts but came to California to chase gold in 1849 when he was 35 years old. He met with “indifferent success” in the gold fields and went back to his old trade, living his last 45 years in Sacramento as the town’s leading Victorian architect and foremost shaper of the capital streetscape. Goodell designed this four-story Italianate house in 1881 for August Heilbron, a German immigrant who ran cattle across the state with his brother Adolph in one of the largest ranching operations in California.
TURN RIGHT ON 7TH STREET AND WALK TWO BLOCKS TO CAPITOL MALL. TURN LEFT AND BEGIN YOUR MINI-TOUR OF SACRAMENTO’S THREE TALLEST BUILDINGS. FIRST UP ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
U.S. Bank Tower
621 Capitol Mall at northwest corner of 7th Street
This 404-foot, 25-story office tower came on line in 2008. At night a series of LED screens light up in colors from blue to purple, simulating a flowing river.
Bank of the West Tower
500 Capitol Mall at southeast corner of 5th Street
This 2009 office building welcomes visitors with a five-story atrium. It tops out at 397 feet and is constructed with a granite curtain wall with stone-on-precast and stone-on-truss panels.
Wells Fargo Center
400 Capitol Mall at southeast corner of 4th Street
No building in Sacramento rose higher than the State Capitol until 1989 but since then ten office towers over 300 feet have risen above the 249-foot Capitol. This is the city’s sky king, completed in 1992 and standing 429 feet tall.
TURN LEFT ON 3RD STREET. TURN RIGHT O STREET.
Crocker Art Museum
26 O Street
Edwin Bryant Crocker was born in a small town in New York in 1818 and trained as a civil engineer. He gave that up to study law in Indiana where he became a well-known abolitionist before moving to Sacramento in 1852. In California Crocker became head of the Republican Party and was appointed by Leland Stanford to the California Supreme Court. He also served as legal counsel for the powerful Central Pacific Railroad, of which his younger brother Charles was a partner. His workload caused his health to break in 1869 and Crocker retired to travel across Europe and collect art. In 1885 that collection formed the core of the Crocker Art Museum, the longest continuously operating art museum in the West and one of the most important. The original museum building was a gallery constructed next to the Crocker mansion by Sacramento architect Seth Babson, both of which he completed in 1872. The exuberant Italianate structures stand as the best of Babson’s work. A new 125,000-square-foot expansion opened in 2010.
CONTINUE ON O STREET ACROSS THE WEST SIDE HIGHWAY TO THE SACRAMENTO RIVER AT FRONT STREET. TURN RIGHT AND WALK NORTH ON THE PROMENADE ALONG THE RIVER. SHORTLY YOU WILL REACH THE...
M Street at Sacramento River
Traffic first crossed the Sacramento River here in 1911 but the bridge designed for horseless carriages was no match for the rise of the automobile. In 1935 it was replaced with California’s first vertical lift bridge designed with 160-foot towers in a Streamline Moderne style. While the bridge has served admirably in linking West Sacramento to Sacramento its color has engendered grumbling through the years. It was painted silver for years but there were complaints about the glare. In 2001 anyone living within 35 miles of the capital got to vote on a new color scheme for the bridge. Gold won but the resulting application has been deemed not gilded enough for many.
CONTINUE ON FRONT STREET ALONG THE RAILROAD TRACKS INTO OLD SACRAMENTO. FOLLOW FRONT STREET AS IT BENDS RIGHT AT THE RAILROAD DEPOT AND TURNS LEFT ONTO THE BRICK PAVERS. ON YOUR LEFT IS...
Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum
1200 Front Street
The first public school in Sacramento opened on February 20, 1854, shifting the burden of education from parents. This is an interpretive replica from 1977 of one-room schoolhouses that were the staple of 19th century America.
1015-17 Front Street
Indiana-born Newton Booth was a lawyer, writer and lecturer who founded a prosperous wholesale grocery business at this spot in 1850. The roof platform was used to communicate with ships approaching Sacramento in order to purchase cargo ahead of bidding wars on the dock. Booth went into California politics in 1862 as a State Senator and he became the 11th California governor in 1871. During his four-year term Booth lived here and his Inaugural Ball was held on the second floor. After leaving the governor’s office Booth was elected to the United States Senate. He served out his term and returned to his wholesale mercantile business in Sacramento where he died in 1892.
AT J STREET TURN LEFT AND WALK OVER TO THE RIVER. ON YOUR LEFT IS...
Delta King Riverboat
1000 Front Street at K Street and the Sacramento River
The Delta King and Delta Queen plied the waters of the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Sacramento from 1927 to 1940, a ten-hour journey usually accompanied by generous amounts of libation during Prohibition. The sternwheel riverboat was pressed into duty as a troop transport on San Francisco Bay during World War II and afterwards fell into disrepair, even sinking into the bay for 18 months at Richmond in 1982. In the 1980s it was towed to Sacramento and reborn as a hotel.
ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
I Street Bridge
I Street at Sacramento River
The first crossing of the river here was via a wagon bridge erected in 1858. The California Pacific Railroad replaced it in 1869 with a timber Howe Truss bridge that also continued to allow wagon traffic. That bridge was dismantled in 1910 and construction began on this steel truss bridge with a swinging central span that could open almost to a full 90 degrees. Weighing more than six million pounds, the I Street Bridge was the heaviest bridge of its type ever constructed; one hundred years later it still the heaviest swing-center bridge in the United States. It still opens for boat traffic today, a process that requires about two and a half minutes.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO FRONT STREET. TURN LEFT AND WALK INTO THE HERITAGE PARK. AT THE CORNER ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
Tehama Block Building
northeast corner of Front and J Streets in Old Sacramento
Pierson Barton Reading bought this prime property from his friend John Augustus Sutter, Jr. on December 30, 1848. Several different structures occupied the site between 1849 and 1852; this 1980s structure replicates a two-story Greek Revival commercial building from 1850. It stood only two years before being torn down in favor of a brick building.
CONTINUE STRAIGHT AHEAD TO THE...
Sacramento History Museum
101 I Street
Now the centerpiece of Sacramento’s heritage center, this is a replica of the town’s City Hall and Waterworks that was crafted of brick in 1854. Inside was also a courtroom, bunks for the police force and the city jail. The city government remained here until the end of the 19th century.
TURN RIGHT ON I STREET.
California State Railroad Museum
125 I Street
One of America’s greatest railroad museums started in 1937. The collection now features over 20 restored locomotives and rolling stock, some dating to the 1860s. The brick museum building dates to 1981.
TURN RIGHT ON 2ND STREET.
Hall Luhrs & Company Wholesale Grocers
914-918 2nd Street
The company started in 1871 with Louis B. Mohr and Charles A. Yoerk but in 1882 Charles A. Luhrs and Thomas B. Hall came on board as senior partners and the focus of the firm changed to wholesale liquor under such names as “Derby Brand,” “Double Stamp,” “Old Log Cabin,” “Pride of the West,” and “Snow Flake.” Prohibition stamped out the liquor trade in 1918 and the crippled business trundled on until 1928.
TURN LEFT ON E STREET.
B.F. Hastings Bank Building
1000 2nd Street at southwest corner of J Street
This was William Merrit’s corner when Sacramento went up in flames in November of 1852. Merritt started to rebuild but ran out of money and Benjamin Hastings acquired the property at auction for $1,500. Wells, Fargo, & Company moved in during the 1850s and then agents for the Central Overland Pony Express came here during 1860. The building became the western terminus of 184 stations of the fabled 1,900-mile horse shuttle that lasted only one year and lost only one pouch of mail in its time. Before Hastings sold the building in 1870 it was the first permanent home for the California Supreme Court and the office of Theodore Judah who helmed the Sacramento Valley Railroad. After that the space did more pedestrian duty as a hotel, a fruit market, a cigar emporium, a rooming house, the Lucky Bottle Shop, and more.
TURN RIGHT ON J STREET.
Sacramento Union Site
121 J Street
The Sacramento Union put out its first edition on March 19, 1851 from offices at 21 J Street when the town was just getting rolling. The paper met with immediate success and moved into these brick quarters after the great fire of November 2, 1852. In 1866 the paper hired a reporter from the San Francisco Morning Call and sent him to write dispatches from the Sandwich Islands. The series of columns made Mark Twain a star and launched his career. Often referred to as the “Miners’ Bible,” the Union would publish for 143 years as “The Oldest Daily in the West” until it went out of business in January of 1994.
Brannan House Site
112 J Street at southwest corner of Firehouse Alley
This Italianate-flavored three-story building was erected by Henry E. Robinson in 1853 on land owned by Sam Brannan. The Pioneer Association that was founded in 1854 by far-sighted members to preserve information and artifacts of the early Sacramento settlement, held its first organizational meeting here. At that time it was known as the Jones Hotel.
WALK INTO FIREHOUSE ALLEY TO THE LEFT OF THE BRANNAN HOUSE.
J Street at Firehouse Alley
In 1849 this site was occupied by a butcher shop called the City Market. With the onslaught of the Gold Rushers the building grew from one story to four and from wood to brick. When the building became dilapidated it was torn down and the lot left vacant amidst the redevelopment of Old Sacramento. Today you can see how the adjacent building was jacked up when the streets were raised and City Market remained at the original grade. Also cast iron columns have been left standing as a reminder of Victorian era ornamentation.
CONTINUE THROUGH FIREHOUSE ALLEY TO K STREET. THE BUILDING AT THE END ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
Lady Adams Building
117-19 K Street
This modest commercial building was constructed in 1852 and is considered the town’s oldest building. It was raised by two German merchants who sailed around Cape Horn in South America on the The Lady Adams and started their business in a tent. They built their store from the ship’s parts including the mast which was used as a “backing up” place for horse-drawn wagons. The bricks that had served as ballast at sea were used for the roof and that is why this is the only building the survived the Great Fire of 1852. Naturally their firm became the Lady Adams Mercantile Company. Its nautical heritage came in handy as the streets would flood every year until they were raised in the 1880s.
TURN LEFT ON K STREET, TOWARDS 2ND STREET, AWAY FROM THE RIVER.
116 1/2 K Street
This is a recent replica of the 36-room hotel that Charles and Frank Ebner built by themselves on this spot in 1856. They placed a cupola on the roof as a beacon for incoming travelers, who could also find an adult beverage waiting from the liquor business that Charles ran out of the basement. John Augustus Sutter, the town’s most influential settler, was a friend of the Ebners and frequent visitor which boosted the prestige of the saloon. The Ebners eventually shifted out of the hotel business to concentrate on the liquor trade. The building deteriorated over the decades but was one of the few original Sacramento structures to make it to the 21st century. It was deemed too unsound to repair, however, and down it came to be replaced with the replica.
TURN LEFT ON 2ND STREET AND WALK DOWN A FEW STEPS.
1018 2nd Street
This is the third Orleans Hotel to stand on this site. Maria Hastings raised the first guest house to greet stagecoaches ferrying Gold Rushers. It burned in the Great Fire of 1852 and was replaced with a brick building that also was destroyed by flames in 1923. The site resisted development until this replica matching the original Gold Rush-era facade was completed in 2008.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON 2ND STREET ACROSS K STREET UNTIL YOU REACH...
Sacramento Engine Company No. 3
1112 2nd Street
After the town burned on November 2, 1852 the City funded the construction of nine fire stations and this Greek Revival engine house was number three. Coming with a price tag of $10,000 the building also served as a waterworks to provide drinking water to the town. Its days as a firehouse ended in 1921 and for the past fifty years the restored building has been a popular restaurant; Ronald Reagan staged both of his gubernatorial inaugural dinners here.
WALK BACK TO K STREET AND TURN RIGHT TO WALK THROUGH THE TUNNEL TO RETURN TO DOWNTOWN. TURN LEFT ON 3RD STREET. TURN RIGHT ON J STREET.
California Fruit Building
1000 4th Street at southwest corner of J Street
This ten-story building, raised in 1914, is considered Sacramento’s first steel-framed skyscraper. Although high-rises had been filling American streets for 25 years at the time, architect Charles Kaiser still followed the pioneering convention of making a skyscraper resemble a classical column with a base (the ornate lower floors), a shaft (the unadorned central stories) and a capital (the decorated cornice).
The Traveler’s Hotel
428 J Street at southwest corner of 4th Street
When this triple-towered six-story hotel opened in 1914 it was one of the most innovative buildings on the Pacific Coast. Concrete contractor E.L. Ransome developed an inexpensive way to reinforce the concrete structure using recycled cables from San Francisco’s cable cars. The bricks for the hotel were manufactured by the Sacramento Sandstone Brick Company that produced light gray and buff sand-lime bricks and fancy mold brick for trimmings from fine sand mined from the bed of the Sacramento River and crushed lime rather than clay. Inside, the city’s first ice water circulating cooling system chilled each of the 226 rooms.
TURN LEFT ON 5TH STREET.
401 I Street at northwest corner of 5th Street
This brick depot was constructed by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1926, the fourth station constructed by the line in Sacramento. The original terminal in town was constructed for the Central Pacific Railroad of Transcontinental Railroad fame and the building features a mural celebrating the groundbreaking of the great undertaking in 1863 by San Francisco artist John MacQuarrie. Walter Bliss and William Baker Faville, responsible for many of San Francisco’s most elegant structures, drew up the plans for this Neoclassical three-story depot with walls of Italian pink brick and a roof clad in Spanish tiles. Now owned by the City, the station is still in service and is the second busiest of Amtrak’s 73 California terminals.
TURN RIGHT ON I STREET. TURN LEFT ON 6TH STREET.
Sacramento Hall of Justice
813 6th Street at southeast corner of H Street
America in the early 20th century was in the grip of the City Beautiful movement that advocated serious, classically-inspired buildings intended to radiate the strength of the federal government, which prior to 1900 had little impact on the public’s everyday life. In Sacramento in 1917 that power took the form of the Hall of Justice, designed by John D. Lofquist and William Dennis Shea. The Beaux Arts structure features pedimented entrances and Grecian detailing fashioned from stone and terra-cotta. The Hall of Justice houses the County’s law library; its original tenants were the police department and the jail - today the massive modern high-rise beside the Hall contains the jail.
Old Folsom Powerhouse
731 6th Street at northeast corner of H Street
Hydroelectric power from the American River 22 miles away arrived here for distribution around the city. The handsome brick structure was built in 1895 for the Sacramento Gas and Electric Railway Company.
RETURN TO I STREET AND TURN LEFT. TURN RIGHT ON 7TH STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO J STREET.
National Bank of D.O. Mills And Company
631 J Street at northwest corner of 7th Street
The Mills brothers - James, Edgar and Darius Ogden - came from New York to join the California Gold Rush but with an eye not for the gold in the dusty hills but for the gold in miners’ pockets. Darius Mills always considered mining much too speculative a venture and never put a cent into it; rather he invested in mining supplies and opened his first bank in his brothers’ Sacramento store. In 1864, with other investors, he founded the Bank of California and after it collapsed in the Panic of 1873 he used his personal fortune to revive the bank. He was considered the wealthiest man in California for a time and when he died of a heart attack in 1910 at the age of 84 his estate was valued at $36 million. His bank moved into this Neoclassical vault designed by San Francisco star architect Willis Polk two years later and eventually disappeared during the Great Depression in 1930.
923 7th Street at northeast corner of J Street
The standout feature of an otherwise routine commercial building is the polygonal tower protruding from the corner. The core of this much-altered building was constructed in the 1850s and the Victorian affectation probably was an 1890s addition.
Capitol National Bank
700 J Street at southeast corner of 7th Street
Typically a bank will want to build an impressive, serious-looking building oozing strength and stability to reassure customers of the safety of their money. But here architect Rudolph Herold, renowned for his imaginative use of decorative terra-cotta, created a facade awash in sensuous curves and punctuated with elements of whimsy. Perched high above the street are classical figures looking every which way, hardly the stern watchers of your money usually seen depicted on financial institutions. Down below Herold even had children riding around on bears. First Northern is a recent tenant, arriving in 2002.
1009 7th Street
This building was raised in 1868 by the Sacramento Pioneer Association and is the oldest building in California still under the control of its original owner. The non-profit organization started in 1854 to preserve the history of the Gold Rush even while gold fever was still raging. Association member Nathaniel B. Goodell drew up the plans that included space for a meeting hall and a library. In 1987 the building received a complete makeover to return to its Victorian era appearance.
Merchants National Bank of Sacramento
1015 7th Street at northeast corner of Merchant Street
The Merchants Bank took its first deposits in 1921 in this classically-flavored building designed by Henry H. Winner and has been here ever since. The corner entrance is sliced at 45 degrees and decorated with granite and plaster elements. Look up to see a clock casually attended to by a pair of Grecian models.
TURN LEFT ON PEDESTRIAN-ONLY K STREET.
818 K Street
Samuel Henry Kress looked on his stores as public works of art and he retained a staff of architects to achieve that end. He took as much pride in the appearance of those stores as the nickels and dimes that piled up in his coffers. There would eventually be 264 Kress five-and-dime stores throughout the United States and many of them adopted the Art Deco style in the 1920s and 1930s. The Sacramento store, from 1931, was created by Los Angeles architect John Fleming.
Hale Brothers Store
825 K Street at northwest corner of 9th Street
The Hale brothers were Prentiss Cobb and Marshall and they opened their Criterion Store in 1880. The enterprise would expand throughout Northern California and eventually merge with the Broadway Department Stores from Southern California and the combined firm would grow into the sixth largest department store in the United States before going out of business in 1991. This corner represents a melding of existing buildings into the Hale store in 1909; the storefronts have been restored to that appearance.
TURN LEFT ON 9TH STREET.
1017-1031 9th Street at northeast corner of K Street
The Middle Ages in Great Britain saw the banding together of tradesmen into guilds to promote business and fellowship. The carpenters had their own guild, the bricklayers had their own guild and so on. Trades that did not have a large number of practitioners welded into hodgepodge guilds known as Odd Fellows. In 19th century America an International Order of Odd Fellows lodge building, usually exuberantly ornate, could be found in virtually every town. Sacramento’s was one of the earliest, from 1870, but you won’t see it here. Architect Charles Dean provided an Art Deco makeover in 1936 and dressed the building above the ground floor in blue-green terra-cotta tiles.
900 J Street at southeast corner of 9th Street
Frank Ruhstaller learned the brewer’s trade as a lad growing up in Switzerland and when he was 15 in 1862 he boarded a steamer and crossed the Atlantic to Louisville, Kentucky via New York City. In 1865 he was in Sacramento where he worked in local breweries until he could save enough to buy the Buffalo Brewing Company. He also would helm the Fort Sutter National Bank and he financed this Victorian office building with its rounded corner tower and rows of bay windows in 1898. The Ruthstaller Building boasted one of the first “air cooling” systems in the state, taking water pumped from the Sacramento River and circulating it with blowers.
Sacramento City Library
828 I Street at southwest corner of 9th Street
When he decided to retire in 1901, while in his mid-60s after building the Carnegie Steel Company, industrialist Andrew Carnegie met with financier J.P. Morgan to discus a sale. It was not a difficult negotiation. Morgan asked Carnegie to write down a price. The steel magnate scribbled “400 million” and slid the paper across the table to Morgan. “Congratulations, Mr. Carnegie,” said the financier. “You are now the richest man in the world.” Carnegie then set out to give away all the money. He only managed to disperse $350 million, with much of the largesse going to construct more than 2,500 public libraries. Carnegie was especially interested in bringing libraries to small communities and usually shied away from larger central libraries but Sacramento won a $100,000 grant. San Francisco architect Loring Rixford provided the Italian Renaissance design, rendered in rose color brick and terra-cotta tiles, in 1918.
United States Post Office, Courthouse, and Federal Building
801 I Street between 9th and 8th streets
The federal government was busy constructing post offices and courthouses during the Great Depression of the 1930s and most often they leaned on the stripped-down classicism of the Art Deco style. Here, however, for the largest mail-sorting facility in Northern California, Edward Flanders and Leonard Starks tapped the classical French Renaissance style. A parade of fluted Doric columns on a California granite base march down I Street under a red tile roof.
TURN RIGHT ON I STREET.
915 I Street between 9th and 10th streets
Rudolph Herold was the go-to architect in Sacramento when you needed a substantial building erected in the first decades of the 20th century. He was born in San Francisco and taught architectural drawing as a young man before setting off to Europe in the 1890s to work and study. He returned to Sacramento in 1901 when he was 31 and opened his practice where he became known as a versatile designer. For City Hall in 1911 Herold taped the showy Beaux Arts style and based much of his terra-cotta ornamentation on the region’s fruit and vegetable farms. The curving five-story modern extension of the city government came along in 2005.
TURN RIGHT ON 10TH STREET.
926 J Building/Citizen Hotel
926 J Street at southwest corner of 10th Street
This landmark tower was the tallest high-rise in downtown Sacramento when it was completed in 1925 for the California Western Life Insurance Company. George C. Sellon provided the brick structure with a two-story Chateauesque crown; its Neoclassical terra-cotta veneer is easily visible today. Sellon was the first California State Architect and is credited with many historic civic projects, including San Quentin Prison and works for Cal Tech. In recent years the tower has been re-imagined as a 197-room boutique hotel.
921 11th Street at northeast corner of J Street
The Elks got off to a shaky start in Sacramento. The first lodge formed in 1877 but its charter was rescinded after two years for prostitution. It would not be until 1895 that Sacramento Elks Lodge No. 328 would be re-chartered. The Elks built the tallest building in town in 1926. Local architect Leonard Starks provided the design for the 226-foot temple that included 100 hotel rooms, a restaurant, swimming pool and recreation rooms. Starks used 330 tons of terra-cotta to give the tower its Italian Renaissance look. When declining membership made upkeep financially impossible the Elks sold their landmark building in 1972.
1123 J Street at northwest corner of 12th Street
Taking his inspiration from several architectural styles, architect Rudolph Herold designed this handsome Masonic temple that was constructed between 1913 and 1918 and retains much of it character from that era. Herold was born in San Francisco in 1870 and his resume was studded with Sacramento landmarks including City Hall and the county courthouse but this is the best remaining example of his work. Look up to see the playful cherubs carved into the keystones. Almost the entire building is original, including a working Otis elevator and the ornate lodge rooms accented by oak and marble.
Sacramento Convention Center Exhibit Hall
J Street between 13th and 15th streets
The centerpiece of the Sacramento Convention Center complex offers 134,000 square feet of exhibit space, a ballroom, and 31 meeting rooms.
TURN RIGHT ON 13TH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON K STREET.
1217 K Street
The Esquire, with its flowing Streamline Art Moderne lines, opened for business in 1940. William B. David, an architect for the Los Angeles firm of S. Charles Lee that specialized in movie theaters, drew up the plans. The Esquire went dark in 1982 and its insides were converted to offices. All the while the marquee survived and sure enough it now hails the presentation of big-screen IMAX movies.
Weinstock, Lubin and Company Department Store
1130 K Street at southwest corner of 12th Street
David Lubin was born in Poland in 1849 but his family came to Massachusetts when he was a young man and he toiled in a jewelry factory there until he worked odd jobs on his way out West. In Sacramento he encountered railroad workers whose overalls were constantly splitting at the crotch. Lubin invented an “endless-fly overall” and he was in the dry goods business. He started a prosperous mail order business with his half-brother Harris Weinstock and his Lubin’s One Price Store found traction. Lubin shifted his talents to agriculture when be bought a fruit ranch and helped found the California Fruit Growers’ Union so the store was “Weinstock’s” as it became the largest department store in Sacramento. From 1924 until it lost its nameplate in 1995 this three-story Neoclassical emporium with its imposing arched entryway was its flagship home. This building replaced a 1908 structure that had taken the place of the original store that was destroyed by fire in 1903.
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
1017 11th Street at northeast corner of K Street
Like thousands of others, Irish-born Patrick Manogue joined the California gold rush but most of his fellow miners probably weren’t prospecting for gold to go to divinity school like he was. It took four years but Manogue earned enough to pay tuition at Saint Sulpice Seminary in Paris, France. In 1886 he became the founding Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and directed architect Bryan J. Clinch to approximate the parish’s new Italian Renaissance styled cathedral on the ones he had seen in France. When it was completed in 1887 it was the largest cathedral west of the Mississippi River and would remain so for 75 years.
1024-1030 K Street
This four-story brick building was raised as a hotel in 1912. Restorations over the past one hundred years have sacrificed some of its Renaissance Revival terra cotta ornamentation but you can still look up and see ram heads at the corners.
1013 K Street
This has been an entertainment destination in Sacramento for 100 years. The Empress was constructed in 1912 and began presenting vaudeville acts the following year. It was followed here by the Hippodrome which started with live theater and was converted into a movie palace with the arrival of the “talkies” in the late 1920s. After World War II the Hippodrome was gutted on the inside and the Crest built inside the husk. The Crest screened films until 1979, struggling to the end against the incursions of television and suburban malls. The theater escaped the wrecking ball, however, andwas saved by the local citizenry and picked up a million-dollar restoration as Sacramento’s last movie palace in the 1990s.
TURN LEFT ON 10TH STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT THE STATE CAPITOL BUILDING.