John (Johann) Sutter, a Swiss immigrant, founded Sacramento in 1839 when he built his fort to secure New Helvetia, 19,425 hectares (48,000 acres) of land granted to him by the Mexican government. When gold was found in 1848 at Coloma in the nearby hills Sutter’s agricultural empire was soon overrun by 49ers and Sacramento boomed as a trading centre for the prospectors. Growth continued after the gold rush and in 1854, four years after California became a US state, Sacramento became state capital.
No 111 K Street, Old Sacramento
When we first visited Old Sacramento back in 1981, we thought that the buildings were renovated survivors form the 19th century. When we went back in 2003 we thought that something had changed, Old Sacramento seemed to have grown. Comparison of 1981 and 2003 photographs confirmed our suspicions, a number of additional buildings have appeared since 1981. Nothing wrong with that, but a little more clarity about the origins of the buildings would be appreciated. Are the new buildings modern reconstructions of demolished buildings or are they old buildings that have been moved here? The problem is that the buildings in Old Sacramento house primarily commercial shops and restaurants so history takes a bit of a back seat. No 111 K Street is a handsome building, but there was nothing to tell us more about it.
Pony Express Memorial, Old Sacramento
The Pony Express was a fast mail delivery service that ran between St Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento using relays of horses and riders. Starting in April 1860 the service operated for only 18 months, but it symbolised the linking of California with the rest of the USA which has given it an enduring place in American history. This picture of the memorial in Old Sacramento was taken during our 1981 visit. When we revisited it in 2003 we found it had become dwarfed by large trees
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Front Street, Old Sacramento
Sacramento lies by the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers. While Sutters Fort was built away from the risk of of flooding, the early commercial district was built close to the river and its transport capability. As result it was prone to devastating floods so in the 1860s tonnes of earth were brought in the raise the level of the city. In the 20th century the commercial district moved east. The run down old commercial district has been renovated as a State Historic Park called Old Sacramento.
Steam Locomotives, California State Railroad Museum
Located in Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum contains has 19 steam engines and many old carriages some of which are used at times to give rides to visitors. It was our luck that it was closed when we last visited Sacramento, but there was a lot visible from outside the museum. On the left is the 1875 Virginia & Truckee No 21 Baldwin while on the right is a 1942 US Army Porter locomotive subsequently owned by the Granite Rock Company.
West Yard, Sutters Fort
When the gold rush started, New Helvetia was largely destroyed by the prospectors, including most of Sutters Fort. Only one building has survived from Sutter’s era, the ‘Main Building’ from which this photograph was taken. The fort has been rebuilt to show how it would have looked in 1846, just before the gold rush. You will not normally find people in period costumes in the fort, we were lucky enough to visit it on a day when local school children were being given a taste of life as it was in Sutter’s time.