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Old Sacramento, Sacramento, California | by Ken Lund
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Old Sacramento, Sacramento, California

Old Sacramento State Historic Park is located within the Old Sacramento Historic District of Sacramento, California. It is generally referred to as Old Sacramento, or Old Sac, and since the 1960s has been restored and developed as a significant tourist attraction. The Old Sacramento Historic District is a U.S. National Historic Landmark District.


The city of Sacramento grew up in the mid-nineteenth century as a development from Sutter's Fort. However, the Fort was some way from the Sacramento River, which was the main means of transport to the coast of California, and what was to become the modern city developed along the waterfront.

Before Sacramento's extensive levee system was in place, the area flooded quite regularly. Because of this, the city's streets were raised a level. Most of the sidewalks and storefronts have been filled in, however many tunnels still remain throughout Old Sacramento and the downtown area.

By the 1960s, the area had fallen into disrepair and disrepute. A large effort was made to secure the area's future as an outdoor living history center similar to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Several historically significant buildings were moved or reconstructed. Those that were beyond repair were demolished.


Today, the Old Sacramento Historic District covers the area between the river frontage and Interstate 5, between I Street and the Capitol Mall. The State Historic Park comprises about a third of the total acreage of the district including half of the waterfront, a large grassy area and railroad features. Virtually all the buildings in this area date from the 19th century, the most notable from immediately after the disastrous fire of 1852, and show a reasonable approximation to their original appearance, though they have required varying degrees of reconstruction to restore to them to that state. However, few if any are in their original use, most of them now housing restaurants, gift shops, or other businesses catering to tourists.


Old Sacramento State Historic Park attracts over 5 million visitors annually. Regular events include the Sacramento Music Festival (formerly known as the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee), Gold Rush Days, New Years Eve events, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the World Music and Dance Festival and Mardi Gras.


While the architecture from this period is commonly attributed to Victorian gold miners, characteristics of West End, such as multi-storied buildings, large arched doorways, full-height balcony windows and the use of decorative wrought-iron balconies, were most ubiquitous in parts of Spain and the Spanish colonies. This influence may be attributed to the fact that the period of Spanish rule in California enjoyed immigration from all over the Atlantic, including Spain and the Canary Islands, and the Spanish colonies.


The architecture of Old Town Sacramento (formerly known as West End) exhibits observable characteristics similar to that of San Juan (Puerto Rico), Havana (Cuba), Tampico (Mexico), Seville (Spain), Santa Cruz de Teneriffe (Canary Islands), Madrid (Spain).


While the architectural style of Old Sacramento, with its wrought iron balconies and evenly-spaced full height windows may remind one of Paris, it should be noted that Sacramento's oldest buildings predate the Haussmann Projects that renovated large areas of Paris in that style.


Old Sacramento is the site of the California State Railroad Museum, the California State Military Museum, the Sacramento History Museum, the Wells Fargo History Museum and the Old Sacramento Interpretive Center.

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Taken on June 10, 2006