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“California State Capitol”

California State Capitol and Museum
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Sacramento Scavenger Hunt Adventure
Ranked #3 of 168 things to do in Sacramento
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: This 19th-century granite building, modeled after the U.S. Capitol, is home to the California Legislature and houses a public museum.
Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Level 5 Contributor
60 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
“California State Capitol”
Reviewed 7 July 2014

The State Capitol in Sacramento was really cool. The building is amazing, and is fun to walk around in.

Visited March 2014
2 Thank Daniel_Lindner
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Tracy, California
Level 6 Contributor
211 reviews
126 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 210 helpful votes
“"A learning experience for kids!"”
Reviewed 6 July 2014

In 1850, the immigration of thousands of "Forty-niners" in search of gold prompted California's admission as the 31st state into the Union, thus creating the need for a state capital.

Even after Sacramento became the permanent seat of California's government in 1854, there were several unsuccessful efforts to relocate the Capitol to Oakland (1858-59), San Jose (1875-78, 1893, 1903), Berkeley (1907), and Monterey (1933-41).

In 1860, California has a permanent seat of government and cities vied for the opportunity to house the state capital for the power, prestige, and economic benefit that accompanied it.

• 4 capitol buildings existed in other cities before Sacramento became the permanent site.

December 4, 1860, groundbreaking for the Capitol started but construction took nearly 14 years and several administrations to complete the effort.

In 1869, the Capitol was partially completed and able to accommodate the Legislature and several state officers including the Governor.

In 1871, the Capitol was almost completed but recurring obstacles hindered a speedy completion, i.e., funds, floods, construction problems, and political fights.

In 1874, the Capitol was completed at a cost of $2.5 million. The original budget provided in 1860 was $100,000.

In 1864, Ruben Clark (one of its principal architects) was committed to a Stockton mental institution where he died in 1866. According to hospital's files, the cause of insanity was diagnosed as "continued and close attention to the building of the State Capitol in Sacramento."

The lack of a continuous and adequate funding source for the construction of the Capitol frequently hindered progress. Building progressed until funds ran out, then stopped until the next legislative session.

On January 9, 1860, in his annual address to the Legislature, Governor John B. Weller addressed the funding issue. From this original estimate of $100,000, the price tag eventually grew to $2.5 million.

In December of 1861, heavy rains and flooding from breaks in a levee of the American River created problems for the Capitol building project.

On January 6, 1862, the Legislature convened in the midst of this deluge and 4 days later the 4th in a series of floods hit. On January 11 the Senate passed a resolution to adjourn to San Francisco for the remainder of the session.

In August 1862, work on the Capitol started with construction crews hauling wheelbarrows of dirt to raise the building's ground line by 6 feet to protect against future flooding problems.

In 1860, the original builder, Michael Fennell, was relieved of his duties when work did not progress on schedule.

In August 1861, G.W. Blake and P. Edward Conner received the contract and immediately faced difficulties obtaining the cement and granite needed to continue the work.

From 1861 to 1862, the floods brought work to a halt when 1 foot of water surrounded the building's walls and construction materials were destroyed. The builders requested an extension to their contract, but the Board denied it.

From that point onward, work on the Capitol was completed on a "day's labor" system. Supervising Architect Reuben Clark sought to avoid delays and political controversies by acquiring materials by contract and hiring all mechanics and laborers by the day.

In 1874, the Capitol was completed.

In 1973, the Capitol and grounds were listed on the office of the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1974, the Capitol was listed as a California Historical Landmark.

On January 9, 1982, the Capitol was re-dedicated to commemorate the close of the bicentennial restoration project.

The architecture of the Capitol building is based on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. The west facade ends in projecting bays, and a portico projects from the center of the building. At the base of the portico, seven granite archways brace and support the porch above. Eight fluted Corinthian columns line the portico. A cornice supports the pediment above depicting Minerva surrounded by Education, Justice, Industry and Mining.

Above the flat roof with balustrade are two drums supporting a dome. The first drum consists of a colonnade of Corinthian columns; the second, Corinthian pilasters. Large arched windows line the drum walls. The dome is 210 ft. high and supports a lantern with a smaller dome capped with a gold-leafed orbed finial.

A Statue of Queen Isabella and Columbus commemorating her decision to finance a voyage to the New World.

Our Visit:
We have made the trip many times over the years until my kids suggested that we take a tour.

To summarize this trip in a few sentences, the capitol looks like the "White house" in appearance. A tour inside and out was interesting as well as informative and I think our kids had a great learning experience in politics.

Visited October 2013
1 Thank Holdtheair
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, California
Level 6 Contributor
208 reviews
46 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 67 helpful votes
“Should not miss a visit to the Capitol at least once in your lifetime.”
Reviewed 4 July 2014

Shame on us for not visiting the Capitol until now. The Capitol is the Museum, so don't get confused when they refer to is as the Capitol Museum and you think there's another building.

Free hourly tours begin at 0900 and you go to B27 (basement floor) after getting searched by Xray machines and metal detectors at the front door. We showed up a bit late and walked in on a tour that was just getting started but the old tour guide didn't even acknowledge us or ask if we were looking for the tour and we were not sure so we went to the tour office
and found out the tour just started, so we went back. There were British folks in our group touring our state capitol as well as folks from other states.

Got to visit the viewing areas above both the state assembly and senate floors which were closed to us. You have to contact your local representatives ahead of time to get those tours. Our rep, Phil Ting, never replied to us by email.

You get to see the gov. portraits (Arnie's is not yet up, after all these years), lovely carved wooden banisters, displays of what each county is known for in wall mounted displays, an example of what the gov.'s office looked like in 1905-06. After the tour, you can run off by yourself in public areas to look around. There's a cafeteria (food didn't look good), a tiny, tiny gift/bookstore and a tiny theater to watch several films on the Capitol. After that, you can walk around the gardens (they are letting the grass die because of the drought) and Capitol Mall which reminds me of the Mall in Washington DC but on a much smaller scale. Only large group tours require reservation. Can't say the tour staff are all that nice, it's hit or miss. The tour office guy was unfriendly, wrong man for the job. But, we ran into other staff around the Capitol who were nice, even the security staff would smile and say "Hi" to you.
Had a great time and took us about a leisurely 3 hrs to explore.

Visited July 2014
1 Thank Chartreuse
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Sacramento, California
Level 6 Contributor
142 reviews
73 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 71 helpful votes
“The "new" remodel is old now but the tour with a docent is still excellent.”
Reviewed 1 July 2014

In the late 1980s, California completed an extensive remodel of the Capitol that revealed much of the original structure. The remodel was heavily criticized at the time for its expense but it has been worth every penny. Its now many years since the remodel but the structure still seems to be in excellent shape.

I strongly recommend taking the (free!) tour as opposed to just walking around. There is so much to learn and the docents are excellent. Many visitors speak languages other than English and I have noticed docents now may speak other languages. (I have noticed Spanish in particular).

This (and the Railroad Museum in Old Sac--see separate review) is our "go to" place for taking first time visitors and they always love it. Many want to go again on later visits.

Visited May 2014
Thank John W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, California
Level 6 Contributor
134 reviews
72 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
“State Capitol - Overall Beauty”
Reviewed 1 July 2014 via mobile

I was very impressed with the beauty of this building. It is gleaming white, standing tall against a deep blue sky. Quite a contrast!

What was equally impressive were the park like grounds surrounding the Capitol. All trees were labeled and it was truly a botanical garden. Several of these trees were new to me. Depending on the time of year, beautiful flowers abound. Examples are roses, azaleas, and many other varieties.

I was there on the weekend so I did not go inside the Capitol. However, walking around the area was more than sufficient.

Visited April 2014
Thank DayTripper084
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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