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Cover Story June 11th, 2009

  Untitled Document

Living and Loving it in Sacramento

photoI am in love.

I’m in love with a beautiful lady that is elegant, sophisticated, well configured, and full of life. This lady has a bit of a past, however. She has seen some rough times, some raw emotion and violent history. But, she has survived. I am but one of her many admirers. They are many others who love her; some of whom have been with her far, far more often than I.

The lady in question is known as . . . . . Sacramento.

Yes, the Golden State has a Golden Lady named Sacramento. Home of the state capitol, home of beautifully designed streets, buildings, and infrastructure. There are bright lights, music, adventure, all the good things in life one would expect of such an elegant, sophisticated lady. But, to really get to know a lady, any lady, you need to go back to the beginning. Compare what was, with what is.

Sacramento today has beautifully designed, broad streets. Clean, neat, well planned. Decorated with millions of flowers on her street medians, framed with thousands of trees (Sacramento has more trees than any other city in the world except for Paris, France). Her centerpiece is, of course, the State Capitol Building, a must-visit on any trip to Sacramento.

Take the tour. If you get lucky you’ll get Clem Dougherty as your tour guide. He’s a fascinating and knowledgeable man. A retired probate atttorney, he went back to school to get a Master’s Degree in History. He is one of those special people who teach and those listening to him absorb all of what he says because he makes history come alive. He reminded me of those special teachers we’ve all had in school that made learning fun and interesting.

She has an efficient light rail line, or rapid transit (you and me? We’d probably call them ‘trolleys’ or ‘streetcars’ after the old memories we had as kids). I was fascinated by watching these modern, up-to-date 'streetcars,' and wanted to ride them to compare to 'the old days.' When I was a kid in Omaha we had streetcars . . . weaved wicker seats, open windows because there was no air conditioning, noisy, dirty, loud . . . totally different today. The 'trolleys' we rode on this day were quiet, clean, no grafitti, no rocking/rolling . . . very nice.

I thought it would be neat to ride them because we could not only see downtown Sacramento (which is spotlessly clean, no graffiti, very well laid out in a very efficient manner,) then the lovely suburban areas, see a bit of Folsom, then return. Well, we saw the downtown area all right . . . and it was lovely, then some older suburban areas . . . but no suburbs . . . or at least, no lovely suburbs. Quiet, quick, every stop announced well in advance by a pleasantly modulated female voice . . . one could see at every stop passengers getting on and off. Clearly, this light rail system served a need that was being used.

We began to go through commercial/industrial districts and a less desirable part of town. We returned to Sacramento and took note of how kind and compassionate one of the trolley drivers was, going out of her way to help disabled folks in wheel chairs.

Sacramento has a highly touted railroad museum. It is every bit as good as advertised. A huge display hall tells the railroad story from its beginnings to its present day status. One can follow the growth of the nation as one monitors the growth of the railroad. As there is a present, so there is also a past to Sacramento. Wasn’t always quite as pretty as it is today. It had flooding of the downtown streets. How did Sacramento solve this problem? Well, there were the levees . . . but they also raised the street to the level of the second floor of downtown businesses so that what had been second stories to downtown businesses now became the ground floor.

Sacramento’s Railroad Museum

There were plenty of steamboats serving Sacramento in the early days. Lots of rough and tumble activity as prospectors from throughout the world poured into California, and made a beeline for Sacramento as the point to buy mining supplies and head off in search of their fortunes. Where miners gathered, so did the liquor mills, the crimson ladies, their madams and their brothels, the gamblers, the assayers, and the con men. They were all there in Sacramento . . . some of them are still there today.

We had flown into Sacramento on a combination business/pleasure trip. The pleasure end was a 53rd reunion of a bunch of “kids” who had graduated from Omaha Benson High School in 1956. Sacramento wound up being our meeting place While in town for the reunion we decided to mine the city for story material. With its rich history, Sacramento would easily deliver three, four, maybe five cover stories.

We landed at Sacramento and called the Hawthorn Suites for a shuttle. What to our wondering eyes did appear but a white stretch limousine! Just for Evelyn and me. We felt like big shots (which, of course, we were, though very humble big shots).

We had a leisurely ride into the hotel and just kicked back and relaxed for the rest of Wednesday. We were delivered to the Hawthorn Suites and were ushered in to a beautiful suite. Neat, clean, spotless . . . well appointed, and they have a very liberal shuttle policy. You need to go somewhere? Ask. You need to be picked up and transported back to the hotel? Call and request it. They arrive promptly and courteously. Case in point: I, like a dummy, forgot my insulin in San Diego. I had to have it. The shuttle van drove me to Kaiser Permanente and waited about 45 minutes while I managed to buy a fresh bottle of insulin. Not one complaint. Thursday, they ran us all over, when we were ready to come home they came and got us. Just super, super service.

We stayed at the Hawthorn Suites for the first two days and was very impressed! Studios are $89 a night, two bedrooms, $99 a night, weekends are $10 less for each room. Free breakfast and Manager's Happy Hour provides lasagna, beer, wine, or comparable . . . For those driving, there is free parking. Important in Sacramento. The parking rates are horrendous! One hotel charges $25 per night for parking. You can park across the street for $24 and save a whole dollar. Parking meters are about $1.25 per hour, similar to downtown San Diego.

We kicked back and relaxed on Wednesday but Thursday, we kicked it into gear: we did the Capitol Mall tour Thursday; checked in with both Senator Mark Wyland's office and Assemblyman Martin Garrick's office while there. We also did the Sacramento Museum, the Leland Stanford Mansion, all on the same day. Friday, we did the Railroad Museum, old Sacramento, Wells Fargo Museum, and Old Sacramento Museum. The amazing Railroad Museum is everything and more they say it is. Fascinating, with rich, beautiful exhibits, photos, historical notes, and docents to lead the tours or, if you prefer, you can go on a self guided tour. We did the 6 mile railroad trip on Saturday, riding parallel to the Sacramento River. A relaxing trip, with the chance to visit amongst ourselves while enjoying the scenery: on one side beautiful downtown Sacramento, on the other, the Sacramento River.

Old Sacramento

The last two days and nights we moved over to the Embassy Suites. The Embassy Suites are very, very plush. Large courtyard in the center of the hotel, convenient and reasonably priced dining areas, both for casual dining as well as more formal dining. They are, of course, more expensive, being right downtown, next to the Sacramento River, Old Sacramento, and most of the action. Our group rate was $119 a night, normally $179, but they also charged $25 a night to park!

We used the shuttle bus to see all that we wanted and I really did not need the car. Both hotels treated us like Kings and Queens. We had our Friday night reception at the Embassy Suites and our Saturday evening dinner. Superior foods, outstanding service, everything went well. We had great fellowship, lots of conversation, much laughter, and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

In summary, I absolutley fell in love with Sacramento!

I also learned, however, that Sacramento is a "walking town!" And I learned that I'm outta shape. I need some exercise and need to lose some weight if I'm going to do that much walking.

Like all beautiful women, Sacramento has a past. It goes way back to 1808 when Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga and Spanish soldiers from Mission San Jose became the first Europeans to enter the Sacramento Valley. They discover the two rivers (the Sacramento and American) which they name the "Jesus Maria" and the "Sacramento." Still later, between 1827-28 , Jedediah Strong Smith and other American fur trappers pass through the Sacramento area, followed by Hudson Bay Company fur trappers closely followed in 1832 by The Hudson Bay Company, which made its second expedition to California. The white man coming into California also brought illness. In 1833, an epidemic in the Sacramento Valley of either smallpox or fever kills about 20,000 Native Americans. The surviving population is too small to resist future expansion into the valley.

Sacramento Riverfront

In 1837 Ewing Smith passes through the Sacramento Valley while driving a herd of 600 cattle to Oregon, the first time such livestock have been seen in the valley. Escapees from this drive are the ancestors of the herds of wild cattle seen in the valley by 1850.

August 12, 1839: Captain John Augustus Sutter arrives at his land grant on the American River to establish the colony of New Helvetia (present day Sacramento). In 1841 Sutter begins construction of Sutter's Fort, relying mostly on labor from local Native American tribes. Also in August, the Bidwell-Bartleson Party reaches the Sacramento Valley as the first overland caravan from the United States to California. Its members include John Bidwell and Charles M. Weber, who later establish the cities of Chico and Stockton.

September, 1841: The Russians abandon their settlement at Fort Ross and offer it to Sutter for $30,000. Sutter agrees to buy it in four installments of cash as well as agricultural goods. Settlers at Sutter's Fort plow the land for planting crops and grain in order to pay for Fort Ross. In addition to working the land, they also construct a mill for grain processing and later a winery and tannery.

1842 Theodore Cordua leases part of Sutter's land grant (near present day Marysville) and establishes the New Mecklenburg Ranch. Like Sutter's Fort, the settlement is built using labor from the local Native American population.

1843 Heavy rains ruin the crops at Sutter's Fort.

1844 Drought ruins the crops at Sutter's Fort.

1845 Sutter's crops fail from neglect while he is off fighting in one of Alta California's Civil Wars.

1846 April: The Donner Party departs for California.
June 14: The Bear Flag Revolt. A group of American settlers raise the Bear Flag at Sonoma and declare California to be independent of Mexico. Sutter's crops fail again, from neglect, while he is fighting in the Bear Flag revolt. The U.S. Navy occupies Monterey and claims California for the United States.
July: The American flag is raised at Sutter's Fort and John Augustus Sutter lays out the town of Sutterville. It is quickly eclipsed by Sacramento with the advent of the Gold Rush.

October: The Donner Party trapped at Donner Lake.

1847 Sutter's first census report of the Sacramento area reports a population of 22,657.

February-April: Relief parties from Sutter's Fort rescue the Donner Party's survivors.

December 22: Sutter receives 2,000 fruit trees, which start the Sacramento Valley's agriculture industry.

1848 January: James W. Marshall discovers gold at Coloma while building a sawmill for Sutter.

February 2: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo transfers what is now California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado from Mexico to the United States. Sutter's Fort holds the valley's first elections. Darius Ogden Mills, later the first president of The Bank of California, founds the D. O. Mills Bank in Sacramento.

December: Captain William H. Warner, aided by future Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, surveys and lays out Sacramento's street grid. The city's first buildings are erected near the embarcadero of the Sacramento River.

1849 Miners, entrepreneurs and developers pour into Sacramento as the start of the Gold Rush begins. Some of these newcomers squat on Sutter Fort and steal his livestock. Sutter will eventually be forced from his land and die bankrupt as a result of the Gold Rush. C. T. H. Palmer establishes Sacramento's first school at the corner of Third and I Streets. The school closes a month later due to low enrollment.

April 28: The Placer Times, Sacramento's first newspaper, rolls off the press at Sutter's Fort.

California votes to be a free rather than slave state during its constitutional convention.

Sacramento city government begins with the adoption of the second City Charter.

June or July: The steamer Sacramento (part of Sutter's Fort Ross purchase) begins its run on the Sacramento River.

August 17: The first river steamboat in California, George Washington, begins regular service between Sacramento and San Francisco.

1850 Gold Rush newcomers are unhappy about Sutter's land titles and the result are the "Squatter's Riots. " The climax of these riots is a gun fight at the corner of 4th and J Streets in Sacramento. Victims of these riots include both the city's sheriff and mayor.

January 8: Sacramento's first major flood inundates the waterfront. Townspeople erect a temporary settlement on higher ground near present day CSUS. Fundraising begins for building levees on the Sacramento and American Rivers. The California State Legislature grants an official charter to Sacramento City and County.

September 9: California becomes the 31st state in the Union.

December: Another serious flood destroys most of the city. Community leaders begin discussing building levees to prevent future floods.

1851 Taking advantage of Sacramento's proximity to the American and Sacramento Rivers, George Cooper opens the city's first fish packing business.

March 19: The Sacramento Union publishes its first edition.

Over 90,000 head of sheep and cattle are on the trail to California from the midwestern states.

Fire destroys more than 85% of the city, which is rebuilt with brick rather than wood.

June 13: Wells Fargo & Company opens for business in Sacramento, on 2nd Street between J and K Streets.

1853 Farmers begin planting more wheat and looking into flour production as California experiences a shortage. The state becomes self-sufficient for wheat and flour production by 1854.

1854 Founding of the California Stage Company. Sacramento becomes California's permanent state capital.

February 20: Opening of the city's first segregated schools.

March 1: Organization of the California Steam Navigation Company to provide steamer service to San Francisco, Stockton, Marysville and Red Bluff.

May 14: As Californians begin to realize that its future lay more in agriculture than in mining, the State Legislature creates the California State Agricultural Society. Its founding members include Warren and part of its mission is to hold an annual agricultural fair (now the California State Fair). Warren funds and organizes the first California State Fair in San Francisco.

1855 The California Supreme Court meets in Sacramento.

Theodore Dehone Judah published his proposal for building the Transcontinental Railroad, A Practical Plan for Building the Pacific Railroad.

August 17: The first passenger railroad in the West, the Sacramento Valley Railroad, makes a trial run from Sacramento to Folsom.

1857 February 3: The Daily Bee, later the Sacramento Bee, publishes its first issue.

1858 Production of grapes, especially for wine making, is widespread in the Sacramento Valley.

1860 Sacramento County leads the state in production of produce including apples, peaches, plums, lemons, almonds, walnuts, and raspberries.

April 4 : The Pony Express begins service between Sacramento to St. Joseph, Missouri, and completes its first run in under ten days.
1861 - September 18: Service begins for the Sacramento Pioneers Railroad Company's horse-drawn streetcars.

October 24: The first transcontinental telegraph message is transmitted to the Pioneer Telegraph Building at 1015 Second Street. The Pony Express stops operations two days later.

June 28: Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis Potter Huntington, and Leland Stanford (aka "The Big Four") incorporate the Central Pacific Railroad.

The worst flood since Sacramento's founding prompts residents to raise the downtown area up to fifteen feet between 1862-1869. The tunnels under present-day Sacramento are remainders of the original downtown buildings and streets.

1863 - January 8: Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad begins with a groundbreaking ceremony at Front and K Streets. October 26: Laying of the first rail for the Central Pacific Railroad. November 10: Central Pacific's first locomotive, No. 1 Governor Stanford, is placed into service.

1864 June 10: Trains running on the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to Newcastle.

1865 The Civil War ends and John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Lincoln.

1866 Mark Twain visits Sacramento and agrees to write a series on Hawaii for the Sacramento Union.

1868 The American River is re-channeled to prevent flooding.

1869 May 10: The Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads meet at Promontory Point, Utah, completing the Transcontinental Railroad.

May 13: The Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads inaugurate regular service between Omaha and Sacramento.

April 1: Southern Pacific Company leases the Central Pacific Railroad.

June 24: First express train delivery of fruit from Sacramento to the East Coast.

1888-1891 Southern Pacific sends five-car trains called “California on Wheels” through the Midwest with exhibits of California products and agricultural displays.

Central Street Railway replaces horse-drawn streetcars with trolley-driven streetcars.

1894 75% of all fruit shipped to the East Coast from California is grown in the Sacramento Valley.

1895 First use of electricity at the California State Fair.

July 15: The first long-distance transmission of hydroelectric power from the Folsom powerhouse to Sacramento on what was the longest transmission line in the world.

1898 Spanish American War.

1907 October 1: Pacific Fruit Express, formed by the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, commences operation with a fleet of 6,600 refrigerator cars.

1910 The Southern Pacific Railroad provides 33% of all jobs in Sacramento. August 22: The Western Pacific Railroad begins through passenger service between San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

1917 April 6: The United States enters World War I.

1929 Stock Market crash.





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