Placer Times & Transcript December 30, 1852
This is one of the finest public buildings in the State, and as it stands in commanding position, presents a most imposing appearance from the bays and Straits of Carquines. The ground plan is forty-five feet by eighty-seven feet; the base four feet above ground, as of Benicia free stone; the building is carried up through the two stories, of brick walls 16 and 12 inches thick; lower story 14 feet, upper 15 feet in the clear. In the front of the building is a recess of 8 feet deep by 25 feet wide, divided into three openings, by two fluted columns of solid masonry, resting upon stone bases and capped with ornamental stone capitals. On each corner of the building, and also on each corner of the recess, is a pilaster, projecting 4 inches from the face of the wall, also capped with ornamental stone capitals. In front, at the corner of the recess are two stone buttresses, between which the steps ascend to the three entrances.
The main hall above, is 42 x 57 feet, which is approached by two flights of winding stairs, landing opposite each other, in the upper entrance.
The lower hall is 42 x 46 feet, and approached immediately from the main entrance. Besides the main halls there are six other rooms of convenient sizes, opening on either hand from the entrance halls. The roof is a self supporting truss roof, projecting over the walls two feet and supported by ornamental brackets around the entire building. The structure reflects great credit upon the builders, Messrs. Honghton & Rider.
The hall is connected with the steamboat landing by a fine new plank sidewalk, leading through the main street of the town, and by all the principal hotels, Post Office and stores. The Common Council of Benicia has agreed to deed the said hall, gratis, to the State, in case the Legislature shall see fit to sit there.
The fourth session of the California Legislature convened in this building in 1853 and for one year, February 1853 to February 1854, the optimistic little boom town of Benicia filled to overflowing with the extraordinary vitality, intensity, and turbulence that characterized political life amid the explosive growth years of the California gold rush.
Many discussions and debates took place in this building during 1853, but one issue underlay and influenced all the others: Slavery! The question struck at the very cornerstone of the Union and eventually led, as we all know today, to the terrible tragedy of civil war. In California in 1853 - even though most everyone preferred to discuss less heated, less divisive matters-the slavery issue nevertheless dictated California's basic pattern of political loyalties and thereby influenced, directly or indirectly, every issue that came before the Legislature in Benicia.