Your Tax Dollars at Work
February 16, 2004
For those who will never travel to California's capital, be assured that the good people of this state are getting their money's worth by housing their lawmakers in resplendent glory.
California's capital wasn't always in River City. Monterey, San Jose, Vallejo, Benicia and San Francisco also hosted our elected canon makers from 1849 to 1854.
William Kelley's firsthand account of the unassuming 60 by 40 feet converted hotel in San Jose will help you put our present day furnishings in perspective.
. . . accommodated under the same roof, one downstairs, the other above; but by a sort of solecism in the arrangement, the Senate, or upper house, occupy the lower apartment, which is a large, ill-lighted, badly-ventilated room, with a low ceiling, and a rough railing a little inside the door; beyond which none but the elect may pass.
CAPITOL AT SAN JOSE 1849-51
Each member had a rush-bottomed armchair; and a small desk with stationery . . . At the farther end, the Speaker was perched in a species of pulpit; the floor was covered with a number of little carpets, of various shapes and patterns . . . The other apartment (the Assembly Chamber) is of precisely the same size, but has the advantage of greater loftiness . . . plain and common chairs, flat deal tables, and a strip of matting thrown where the feet are erroneously supposed to rest, being the extent of the accommodation . . .
Of all the former Capitol buildings, only one is still standing. The Benicia Capitol Building has been restored and is open for viewing. It, too, fell into disfavor during its one year tenure from 1853 to 1854. Insufficient 'housing' for its 'entourage of scribes, journalists and advocates' and complaints about the weather forced another move.
The City of Sacramento offered the perfect solution --- free land for a huge building, free use of the County Courthouse, rooms for officers, fireproof vaults and free moving vans.
This first home in Sacrament proved wonderfully suited, but burned to the ground in July of 1854. Four months later the second State House was built and occupied.
The next disaster came in the form of a flood in 1862. Governor Leland Stanford supposedly arrived for his inauguration in a rowboat. So the Legislature took up temporary residence in San Francisco.
The building we now see was built from 1861 to 1874. Civil War needs extended this period.
Wonderful landscaping with rare trees and plants make the acreage around the Capitol a perfect place to take portraits, have a picnic, listen to birds and watch squirrels and people.
Let's go inside and explore the grandeur and opulence of YOUR tax-paid-for home away from home. Click on the State Seal for your very own personal tour.