Sacramento Capitol and Other Sites Downtown
Narrated by Russ Christoff

I met with my guide Bill and asked about the objectives of state parks. Bill what is the mission of the state parks?

Guide Bill:
The mission of the state parks is to preserve the cultural and natural histories of our state here. And the amazing part is that through the years, all the political climates, changing values of the population, it's a miracle all these things have been preserved so that people today can go and see them, and learn about our past.

Russ Christoff:
What will visitors experience when they visit the historic parks in Sacramento?

Guide Bill:
You know what is wonderful, is that within the confines of the city of the downtown part, you can go to Sutter's Fort and find out the beginnings of when it started. You can go to State Indian Museum and find the cultural history of our native Americans. You can go to Old Sacramento to the California State Railroad Museum and find out how the railroad tied us all together. And then finally, you can go over to the Governor's Mansion and also to the State Capitol, and find out where 13 governors lived and where all the Bills are made that make us what we are today.

Russ Christoff:
What's the historical significance behind Sutter's Fort?

Guide Bill:
This is where it all started. John Sutter established Sutter's Fort and used it as basically a ranch and staging area for immigrants coming from the east. The Donner Party when they were stranded in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, rescue parties started from Sutter's Fort to go up and get them.

From Fort Ross, Sutter brought down cannons and used cannons from Fort Ross for protection. And speaking of cannons, you can go to living history re-enactments and also environmental programs that they have constantly through the year. Cannons are going off, guns are being fired, and you're able to see what life was like back there in the 1840's.

And while you are there at Sutter's Fort, literally on the same block, you can walk over a few steps and go into the State Indian Museum. The State Indian Museum preserved the culture of the native Americans who were here in California prior to everything else happening. And they have a number of events throughout the year also that celebrate that history.

Russ Christoff:
What do people find when they go to Old Sacramento?

Guide Bill:
You can find just about anything. You have basically buildings from the 1870's, that have been restored, the 1870's and earlier. You have the Delta King, a river boat the once went between Sacramento and San Francisco. You have the Eagle Theater which is part of our state park. The Eagle Theater was the first theater in California.

Probably, the biggest thing you have there is the California State Railroad Museum. This is the largest interpretative museum in North America. And within there, they have 21 fully restored locomotives and cars which can easily take and hour to an hour and a half to go through. Truly a wonderful visit.

Russ Christoff:
What was the life of the railroad workers like?

Guide Bill:
Well, you know it depends on your perspective. For us it was the pits, but for them, keep in mind both the Chinese and Irish were immigrants coming here looking to make a better life. It was a hard life, but they were bettering themselves, and that is how they perceived it at the time.

Russ Christoff:
And you can take a train ride, a real train ride.

Guide Bill:
Oh yes, we have a railroad, the Sacramento Southern Railroad completely run by volunteers. It's operated on the weekends through the summer up to October.

It goes down the Sacramento River, it's about a 45 minute trip. That is a separate admission from the California State Railroad Museum.

Russ Christoff:
Now the home where the governors lived. It's not too far from here is it?

Guide Bill:
Thirteen governors lived in the Governor's Mansion, about six blocks from the State Capitol. It was built in 1877, and all of the 13 governors that went through left something of themselves as they came through. And what is neat are the visitors that go through there, is that you're taken through the house which is wonderful.

Russ Christoff:
What things will we find inside the mansion?

Guide Bill:
Well, the mansion just looks like someone is living in it right now. You can go into the formal parlor and here is a little petticoat mirror where women made sure their petticoats were fine.

You go into the informal parlor where there is a piano set up.

You go into dining room where it looks like it is already for dinner, and the remarkable thing is that the gold rim on the china actually came from the gold rush.

Up on the second floor, especially in all the bedrooms, they have all these different formal gowns from the different first ladies of the governors. And also under the heading of "Kids will be Kids," ask the guide to show you in one of the bathrooms what Kathleen Brown, daughter of Pat Brown, did to one of the bathtubs.

Russ Christoff:
My Capitol Museum guide, Michelle, took me on a tour of the Capitol Building. Michelle, when visitors come to the State Capitol, what are they going to see here?

Guide Michelle:
There is a lot to see. The Legislature actually meets here, so they can view the legislative sessions. All the legislative offices are here. It's a draw in that it's where state government operates. And it's also a draw because of the way it looks.

We have a historic capitol, about the 1900 era. And we have museum rooms where people can see what state government looked like in that time period. We have portraits of all the governors. We offer free guided tours everyday, seven days a week.

Thousands of student tours. It's an exciting place to be.

Russ Christoff:
And you also have a real impressive rotunda and dome, don't you.

Guide Michelle:
We sure do. That is definitely one of the highlights. The rotunda is spectacular. The warm colors and dome, and the rotunda really symbolize government. A Greek democracy, roman law, it's all symbolized so even as much as the building looks the way it does, it's also a symbol for all people. It belongs to everyone, and that's something I like a lot about it.