Saturday, May 20, 2006
On August 13, 1839, John Sutter landed on the shore of the American River near its confluence with the Sacramento River. With the promise of a Mexican land grant, Sutter and his landing party established Sutter's Fort. As the settlement grew and became permanent, it attracted other businessmen looking for opportunities.
Sam Brannan established a store near the Sacramento River hoping to take advantage of the convenient waterfront location. When gold was discovered in the nearby foothills by James Marshall, Brannan's settlement, called Sacramento, boomed. The embarcadero flourished and was the prime trading center for miners outfitting themselves for the gold fields.
But the new city experienced flooding and fires. In 1850 the new city experienced its first devastating flood, and again in 1852, the city was wiped out by high water. It was apparent that drastic measures would have to be taken if it was to saved.
In 1853 a mammoth project was proposed to raise the city above the flood. The ambitious and expensive proposal was not totally accepted until another devastating flood swept through the city in 1862. Within a few years, thousands of cubic yards of earth were brought in on wagons and the daring scheme to raise the street level can be seen throughout Old Sacramento under the boardwalks and in its basements.
The center of the commercial district gradually moved east and the area became a slum.In the mid-1960's, a grand plan to redevelop the area was begun. Today, with 53 historic buildings, Old Sacramento probably has more buildings of historic value condensed into its 28 acres than any area of similar size in the west. Old Sacramento is a National Landmark and a portion is designated as a State Historic Park.
Mostly held by private owners, with individual businesses leasing shops and offices, the area has flourished. It is once again a thriving commercial trade center. The waterfront is enjoying a resurgence with a Public Market, new public docks, excursion cruises, a water taxi, a waterfront hotel and two new restaurants. Some of Sacramento's best restaurants are offered, as are its museums.
Old Sacramento attracts over 5 million visitors annually. For locals, it is a favorite getaway and has been voted the best place for a first date. Old Sacramento proudly offers a full year-round event calendar and is home of one of the largest jazz festivals in the world.