"Sacramento - Gold-Rush City & California Capital" Sacramento by WulfstanTraveller

Sacramento Travel Guide: 436 reviews and 1,026 photos

Aside from being California's capital, Sacramento is an interesting and underrated city which people often overlook. For California, its history is long and fascinating, as it grew to prominence as the major inland port during California's Gold Rush and the following years. This largely the result of the fact that it is located on the Sacramento River and is the port closest to the northern goldfields of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It thus possesses an interesting old waterfront area with the downtown portion, Old Sacramento, containing many renovated and rebuilt Victorian buildings, many going back to the 1850s. In addition, its downtown has been revitalized in recent years and there are historical and architectural gems throughout.

For a long time, Sacramento was, aside from being the state capital, the second city in the state. It was the second largest city after San Francisco, although the overall areas of some of the mining communities may have briefly had more people, and the main shipping and commercial city after San Francisco. All of the Big Four (Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis Huntington, and Charles Crocker) had businesses here and this is where they got their start. Unlike the mining towns, though, Sacramento stayed consistently large and grew, wheras the mining towns rapidly blossomed and withered, generally staying large too briefly to develop as much permanence. Sacramento was thus one of the two largest and most important cities in the state before it was chosen as the state capital. It's relatviely large size, stability, wealth, and development were, in fact, major reasons why it was chosen as the capital, in addition to its strategic and symbolic location. It was able to offer the state relatively excellent facilities, a large, grand buildings, and plenty of local amenities at a time when other towns had trouble providing furniture.

In 1850, it already had over 6,800, at a time when most other towns outside the Gold Country either didn't exist or were tiny villages. It was one of the first 8 cities in the state to be incorporated that year and was actually second after San Francisco. By 1860, it had 13,785 people, compared to San Francisco's 56,802 people. At the same time, Marysville, the third largest city in the state, had 4,740 people, LA had 4,385, and Stockton was 5th with 3,679.It wasn't until about 1880 that Sacramento fell to third, behind Oakland which by then had exploded to oalmost 35,000, and Sacramento, with 21,400, was still twice as big as LA. By 1890, things had changed considerbly and LA had moved up to be California's second city with over 50,000. Still, it remained #4 until after 1920 and by 1930 it was 6th, with just over 93,000 people.

As a result of its early and long prominence, Sacramento has a very large number of 19th century buildings. Because it slowed down in terms of economic and population growth by 1900, it for a very long time saw much less development than San Francisco that might have destroyed more of its old buildings, while it also was spared the devastation of earthquakes. Although it suffered numerous "great fires" and floods, these were generally early in its history and as a reuslt of all of this, it has an unusually extensive collection of buildings dating prior to 1880. These are mostly concentrated in and around Old Sacramento, the portion of downtown along the river, but can also be seen scattered throughout downtown and the neighbourhoods surrounding it. It thus has the most extensive area in any California city with a real feeling of an "Old West" city to it. Most of the other places with similar architecture and a similar feeling tend to be in the much smaller old mining towns and a few other places scattered in the Sacramento Valley and elsewhere.

The end result is that, in addition to other benefits, Sacramento is one of the most historical cities in California and one of the best citis in the state to visit for the early history of California.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Not as busy and touristy as some places, great architecture and history.
  • Cons:Terribly hot in the summer, still somewhat "dead."
  • Intro Updated Aug 24, 2009
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