GSVB Benicia Capital Intro

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park

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Later History of the Benicia Capitol Building

The City of Benicia continued to flourish in some ways even after removal of the capital. Several important educational institutions were established, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company continued to use Benicia as a major port of entry, and eventually the transcontinental southern Pacific Railroad established a terminal and ferry crossing at Benicia.

Benicia is a very pretty place: the situation is well chosen, the land gradually sloping back from the water, with ample space for the spread of the town. The anchorage is excellent, vessels of the largest size being able to lie so near shore as to land goods without lightering. The back country, including the Napa and Sonoma valleys, is one of the finest agricultural districts of California . . . Benicia -- very properly, as I think -- has been made the Naval and Military Station for the bay. General Smith and Commodore Jones both have their headquarters there. The General's house and the military barracks are built on a headland at the entrance of Suisun Bay -- a breezy and healthy situation. Monte Diablo, the giant of the Coast Range, rises high and blue on the other side of the strait, and away beyond the waters of the bay, beyond the waste marshes of tule and the brad grazing plains, and above the low outlines of many and intermediate chain, loom up faint and far and silvery the snows of the Sierra Nevada.

From El Dorado by Bayard Taylor, 1858

The old capitol building was used as the Solano County Courthouse until 1858 when the county government moved to Fairfield. Episcopal services were held in the building during parts of 1854 and 1855, and Benicia's grammar school was housed in the building form many years. About 1860 a wood frame wing was added for use by the fire department, and the Benicia public library moved into another part of the building. The Assembly chambers on the second floor were used by successive generations of Benicians for dances, lectures, and other entertainment's, and in the years preceding 1956 the building once again served as Benicia's City Hall.

In 1952 the State of California took steps to acquire the building as a State Historic Monument, and in 1958, after years of painstaking research and careful, thoroughgoing restoration, the building was opened to the public as Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. Today it is the only one of California's early capitol buildings that is still standing. (The westernmost portion of the present capitol in Sacramento including the gold-domed rotunda was built during the 1860' and officially occupied in November of 1869.)

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