By Eilene Lyon
I recently spent a week in Sacramento at the National Genealogical Society conference, where I gave a well-received presentation, “Immortal Words: Keep your family history alive with a lively blog.” This was my second visit to the city in recent years, but on this occasion I had a little more time for sight-seeing.
My hotel was adjacent to the Capitol building and surrounding memorial park. I have previously toured the Capitol, so this time I stuck more to the park. There was a vigil for Ukraine in front of the building one evening. Some construction was going on around the back and sides of the building, but most of the grounds were still accessible.
It was especially popular on Saturday afternoon. Many professional photographers had clients for graduation, engagement, and wedding photos, as well as family portraits. The grounds serve as an arboretum, with an enormous variety of trees from around the world. The rose garden, bursting with blossoms, is a peace park, with a heart-shaped gazebo in the center and poems by schoolchildren on plaques through out.
One site I missed seeing previously was Sutter’s Fort. Capt. John Sutter, originally from Switzerland, became a Mexican citizen and obtained a large land grant at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. His sawmill at Coloma, on the American River, was the site of the gold discovery in 1848 that sparked the rush in 1849. The rush led to the financial ruin of poor “Captain” Sutter.
The reconstructed fort sits on the original site and includes one original building. Though the stock pens are gone and the east end of the main fort has been truncated to fit the space, the buildings are much as they would have been in the mid-19th century.
I also walked to the area of Sutter’s landing that used to lie on the American River (it’s about a quarter mile from the river now). I was surprised at the distance from the fort, but this assured that it would not suffer from flooding except in unusual circumstances.
This was not true for Sacramento, on the banks of the Sacramento River, which suffered devastating floods early in the gold rush era. The downtown street level was eventually raised, turning the ground floor levels of building into basements.
Sacramento boasts many murals, some so large it is difficult to photograph them. I also spied this handshake sculpture, “Peace,” by Stephen J. Kaltenbach in front of the Bank of America building.
Next to the fort is the California Indian Museum. They do not allow photography. However, I was able to get some pictures of Native Californian basketry at the Siskiyou Museum in Yreka on a later date. My understanding of the California Indians was rather basic prior to viewing the excellent exhibits. I highly recommend a visit.
Of course, I had the opportunity to visit some restaurants in the city. I enjoyed a fabulous beet salad on the deck of the Delta King on the Sacramento River waterfront. I learned that the sea lion I saw basking on a dock nearby is part of a family group. It surprised me to find them so far from the ocean!
My favorite dining experience was at La Cosecha, a Mexican restaurant located in the César Chávez Plaza. The outdoor dining space had the feel of a beachfront and my mole chicken enchiladas and margarita were super tasty!
Feature image: Sunset view from the Capitol, looking toward the drawbridge across the Sacramento River.