Redding - Population Hub & Shasta County Seat
Redding is the largest city in far northern California and the largest city north of Sacramento, just slightly edging out Chico to the south east. With about 90,000 people in the city itself and over 100,000 in the whole immediate region, it has a far amount of services and is a major commercial and transit hub.
It is located on I-5 between Sacramento and Portland and is also on the Sacramento River. It's in Shasta County, home to Lake Shasta and Shasta Dam (although not Mount Shasta, which is in Siskiyou County). Other highways going to the centres of other counties, including Alturas and Weaverville, connect to I-5 here.
The region includes substantial regions of wilderness, rugged mountains, lush forest, and outdoor activities in addition to substantial agriculture.
"County Seat and History"
Redding is the seat of Shasta County and started as a tiny settlement along the Sacramento River on the Siskiyou Trail from the Columbia River down to the delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers. It became Redding in the 1870s when it grew as a railroad-transit hub with the arrival of railroads. It stayed rather small, though, until the construction of nearby Shasta Dam, which greatly expanded the population in the 1930s and 1940s. The logging industry then boomed after WWII with massive construction demand and the city grew more rapidly. However, the industry then declined in the 1970s on and ever since the region has had very high unemployment for the state and a fairly depressed economy, with the related troubles that normally arise from the combination of population boom and suburban housing sprawl followed by economic decline.
"Largely Characterless and Uninteresting"
Despite its size and the volume of services offered, Redding actually has little in the way of anything to make it an actual destination in its own right, or even a very enticing place to stop. It is mostly characterised by typical, characterless, homogenous suburban sprawl with chain stores, shopping centres, blight, and cookie-cutter housing.
The rather small old part of town that existed before the post -WWII boom is largely dwarfed by the surrounding sprawl and unfortunately much of the downtown was torn up or razed in urban-renewal, etc. The result is that there are few old buildings downtown, and they are mostly individual, isolated structures separated by empty lots, car lots, strip-mall places, etc. A large, rather ugly and dead shopping mall was stuck in the middle of it, too, tearing up the frabic as well as buildings. Making matters worse, the mall not only resulted in irreparable damage to the downtown fabric but is itself fairly neglected and dead.
The result is that downtown is for the most part both unattractive and very dead. It is devoid of pedestrians and there are few businesses of interest and even fewer places to eat, especially for the large size of the town.
However, not all is bad, as there are some nice buildings left over here and there and there are some good places to eat. One simply must really make a good effort to look. In addition, it is a small treasure-trove of 1950s-1960s architecture, especially so-called "googie" motel and sign architecture, which filled up downtown in that growth era and which has not been torn down or remodelled as happened in many other areas, mostly after 1990. This is adds a little more charm and interest of its own, especially with the recent loss of so much of this style.