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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Benicia in Solano County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

Old State Capitol

 
 
Old State Capitol Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
1. Old State Capitol Marker
Inscription. Erected in 1852, this historic building was ostensibly intended for Benicia City Hall, offered as the State Capitol and promptly accepted, it had that honor from February 4, 1853 to February 25, 1854. Deeded to state in 1951, it was one of the four locations of the “Capitol on Wheels.”
 
Erected 1975 by The State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with The Solano County Historical Society, August 23, 1975. (Marker Number 153.)
 
Location. 38° 3.008′ N, 122° 9.54′ W. Marker is in Benicia, California, in Solano County. Click for map. Marker is located at the flag pole on the grounds of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 115 West G Street, Benicia CA 94510, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Founders of Benicia (here, next to this marker); Robert Semple (here, next to this marker); Antonio M. De LaGuerra 1825 – ‘81 (here, next to this marker); Fischer-Hanlon House (a few steps from this marker); The Bohn Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Solano Hotel
Old State Capitol Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
2. Old State Capitol Marker
Marker is the Second from the Right
Photo #3 Marker is the second from the left in the front row.
Photo #4 Marker is on the far left in the back row.
(about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Saint Paul's Episcopal Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); First Masonic Hall Built in California (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Benicia.
 
Regarding Old State Capitol. This site was designated as California Registered Historical Landmark No.153 on January 11, 1935 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 12, 1971.
 
Also see . . .  California’s State Capitals. (Submitted on February 22, 2009.)
 
Additional comments.
1. The Benicia Capitol State Historic Park
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park is the site of California’s third seat of government (1853-54.) It is the only pre-Sacramento capitol that survives.
The original building has been restored with reconstructed period furnishings and exhibits. The interior includes a board-for-board reconstruction of the building’s original floor with ponderosa pine. The desks, three of which are originals from the Benicia period or earlier, are furnished with a candlestick, a 19th century newspaper, a quill pen and a top hat.
Source: California State Parks
A Second Marker at this Site Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
3. A Second Marker at this Site
BENICIA
Capital of California
1853 – 1854
The State Legislature
Here Convened
Marked
--by the--
DAUGHTERS OF THE
AMERICAN REVOLUTION
OF
CALIFORNIA
1924
– www.parks.ca.gov
    — Submitted February 22, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.

2. The Restoration Process
The State Capital was originally built at a cost of $24,000. The thousands of bricks for the building were made from Benicia’s local clay. In the rush to complete the building, the bricks were not kept in the kiln long enough and they came out with their distinctive salmon color. The sandstone for the window sills and foundations was quarried in the hills just behind Benicia.

The actual building time for the capitol was only three months. Such speed was possible because the building had no modern plumbing, no heating, or lighting, and, in 1852 there were no zoning laws, red tape, or labor unions.

The two year preservation and restoration process was completed in 1958. As part of the process, a large square-hewn wooden beam was removed from over the fluted columns and replaced with reinforced concrete. The concrete was poured in position.

The oculus window added under the eaves is faithful to the building’s original Greek temple design. Originally, a carved wooden eagle graced the south gable, but it disappeared in one of the buildings many renovations.

From 1854, when the capital moved to Sacramento, to 1956, when
A Third Marker at this Site Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
4. A Third Marker at this Site
The California Legislature
Met in Session Here on February 16, 2000
In Commemoration of the Legislature’s
150th Annivarsary
[The Emblem of the State Senate is on the left with the inscription of:]
John L. Burton, President Pro Tempore of the Senate
[The Emblem of the State Assembly is on the right with the inscription of:]
Antonio F. Villaraigoso, Speaker of the Assembly
the State Division of Architecture began restoration work, the capitol building had a number of uses—theater, school, dance hall, and skating rink, to name a few. With each new use, the building underwent additions and alterations, so that by the time the restoration got under way, careful detective work was needed to determine what was genuine. Most of the alterations and repairs differed so much from the original that they had to be completely done over.

To determine authenticity of the project, the Division of Architecture relied on printed and pictorial record, reports of old-time Benicia residents, and actual evidence discovered throughout the structure and within the building frame during the work process. Further clues were provided from careful study of other buildings erected in the 1850’s at Benicia.

Restorers were able to determine which of the building’s elements were original by comparing plaster, and lumber samples, paint colors, construction techniques and even nail holes, to historic references. By such using techniques, it was even possible for them to determine when an architectural element was missing. A great deal of time was spent investigating the interior stair area. Various features of workmanship indicated that the stairs in the building when restoration began were not original. No photos or documentation of the original stairs existed.
The Great Seal of the Senate Engraved on Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
5. The Great Seal of the Senate Engraved on Marker
Restorers investigated nail holes and marks in the original floor and walls in order to determine the probable configuration of the original stairs.
    — Submitted February 22, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.

3. From Boat to Building
The Alta California for December 1852 reported, ”A large fine brick edifice has been erected here, intended for a City Hall, but it is rumored that strong efforts will be made to induce the Legislature to hold meetings within its walls. Indeed, the offer of the substantial city hall was probably the strongest inducement to move the capital to Benicia. It would lend the roving capital a badly-needed air of dignity.

Built during the material and manpower shortages of the Gold Rush years, the State Capitol is a monument to the resourcefulness of California’s pioneers. Building materials liberated from abandoned ships saw a second life as decorative and structural elements. The six New England Cedar Columns in the Senate Chamber were originally ship masts. The “Terme-plate” roof (iron plates coated with lead and tin) was manufactured in Wales, and may have been salvaged from one of the hundreds of ships abandoned on San Francisco Bay.
    — Submitted
California State Assembly Engraved on Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 19, 2009
6. California State Assembly Engraved on Marker
February 22, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.

 
Categories. GovernmentLandmarksNotable BuildingsNotable EventsNotable PlacesPolitical Subdivisions
 
Old State Capitol Building Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
7. Old State Capitol Building
Old State Capitol Building Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
8. Old State Capitol Building
Old State Capitol Building Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
9. Old State Capitol Building
The Senate Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
10. The Senate
The Assembly Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
11. The Assembly
The Restoration Process Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
12. The Restoration Process
See Comment #2
Photo on Display Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
13. Photo on Display
See Photo #12
Photo on Display Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
14. Photo on Display
See Photo #12
Photo on Display Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
15. Photo on Display
See Photo #12
Photo on Display Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
16. Photo on Display
See Photo #12
Photo on Display Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
17. Photo on Display
See Photo #12
Photo on Display Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
18. Photo on Display
See Photo #12
Photo on Display Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, February 19, 2009
19. Photo on Display
See Photo #12
Artifacts Recovered During Renovation Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
20. Artifacts Recovered During Renovation
From Boat to Building Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
21. From Boat to Building
See Comment #3
Abandoned Ships on the Bay Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1850
22. Abandoned Ships on the Bay
See Photo #21
The Columns in the Senate Chamber Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
23. The Columns in the Senate Chamber
The columns of New England Cedar were taken off of some of the hundreds of ships that were abandoned in San Francisco Bay and the Carquinez Straits during the Gold Rush.
See Comment #3 and Photo #21
The Lamps Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
24. The Lamps
These lamps (which are reproductions) were originally salvaged from the cabins of abandoned ships and were fitted to burn whale oil.
See Comment #3 and Photo #21
The Spittoons Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, 1956
25. The Spittoons
So great was the fear of fire, that there was no smoking permitted in the building when it was the State Capital. These spittoons (they are reproductions) were necessary because there was no restrictions on chewing tobacco.
See Comment #3 and Photo #21
The Clock Photo, Click for full size
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, circa 1956
26. The Clock
This clock was made in France for Sperry and Co. in San Francisco. It was brought around the horn on a clipper ship in the early 1850's. The pendulum is suspended by alternating rods of brass and steel. The two metals have opposite properties - when cold, one contracts and the other expands. This keeps the pendulum the same length, which keeps the clock accurate.
See Photo #21
California Historical Landmark Directional Sign Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, February 20, 2009
27. California Historical Landmark Directional Sign
Located at the corner of West Military and First Streets.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California. This page has been viewed 1,488 times since then and 79 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. submitted on , by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.   25, 26, 27. submitted on , by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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