Cruise Into the California Auto Museum
Sitting so unassumingly close to the intersection of the US 80 and I-5 freeways in an old warehouse, the California Auto Museum is one of my favorite car museums anywhere in the United States. Definitely worth a look for not just the car enthusiast but also someone looking for a memorable auto experience. Amazingly well restored autos of all ages all restored and gracefully presented in a 72,000 square foot museum. Everything from Model T's to, Rolls Royces, funny cars, unique vehicles and vans. The collections also change from time to time to provide new life to the museum.
The museum's beginnings occurred in 1982 when a dedicated group of volunteers got together to talk about having a major auto museum in Sacramento. About a year later the group established the California Vehicle Foundation (CVF) Fast forward two years and the CVF receives a letter from Edward Towe a Montana banker, who holds the largest private collection of Fords in the world, searching for a space to house his collection. After a great deal of searching it was determined that a 72,000 square foot warehouse in Sacramento would be the perfect fit for his collection. With assistance from the City of Sacramento a long term lease was created in exchange for establishment of the museum. The collection was moved from Montana to Sacramento and in May of 1987 the museum was open to the public. In the mid 1990's a tax dispute between the IRS and Mr. Towe resulted in a large portion of the cars being sold. In 2009, given the loss of the Towe Collection, the Museum's Board of Directors officially changed the name to the California Auto Museum.
Aside from its massive collection of cars, the museum also provides access to unique cars for company events and pictures. The museum hosts a number of events and trips for its members. It also restores and sells cars to the public.
The museum is open seven days a week from 10 am to 6 pm. Admission is $ 8 for adults and
$ 4 for students.
Wells Fargo Building
Immediately visible as you drive north or south on I-5 to the east the Wells Fargo Building stands out as Sacramento's tallest building. It appears as a large slab of light brown granite with a copper roof top and cleft in the middle. Modestly attractive to the eye it is also Sacramento's largest office building. The firm I worked for used as their attorney a firm that occupies two of the highest floors in the building and offers some great views of the surrounding area.
This 30 story building was started in 1990 and completed in 1992. The building occupies a full city block and comprises just over 2.3 acres. Parking is in an attached six story garage that in my opinion fits very well into the design of the overall structure. The architect was Helmuth, Obata and Kassabum a large architectural firm headquartered in St. Louis.
More interesting than these facts is that it is the only one of Sacramento's tallest buildings that has a museum in the lobby. On the ground floor of the building are exhibits on Wells Fargo's history in the Central Valley. Most prominent is a nicely painted Wells Fargo stagecoach that is open for viewing. The museum sits in the middle of a five story glass atrium with granite and marble walls. Entrance is free. Interesting to look at but probably not worth a stop or walk across the freeway from old town.
However if you are hungry and up for an up-scale lunch, the first floor also contains one of Sacramento's premier restaurants Il Fornaio. The restaurant is both elegant to sit in at and provides some tasty lunches from many regions of Italy. I have only eaten their twice but can vouch for the pasta and chicken dishes as being first rate.
A Look at Sacramento's Skyscrapers
Ever drive through a city and wonder what those tall buildings that stick up and out from others really are? Well as a former city planner and urban design administrator is definitely one of the things that comes to my mind.
Sacramento's skyline has changed significantly over the last fifty years. In the 1960's the only skyscrapers that could be seen approaching the City by freeway were a few unattractive boxy state buildings. Function definitely trumped any desire for architectural style. Sadly, you had to look really hard to make out the dome of Sacramento's magnificent State Capitol Building.
Beginning however in the 1980's as the City of Sacramento began to adopt design guidelines for the downtown and developers recognized that an attractive building was good for leasing things began to change. All six of the city's tallest skyscrapers have been built since 1989. I call out these tallest buildings mainly because these are the ones that stand out as you drive through or walk around the City.
The six tallest buildings in the City of Sacramento as of January, 2013 are;
1) Wells Fargo Center Height 429 ft Constructed 1992
2) US Bank Tower Height 402 ft. Constructed 2008
3) Bank of the West Height 396 ft. Constructed 2009
4) US Bank Plaza Height 380 ft. Constructed 1991
5) Renaissance Tower Height 372 ft. Constructed 1989
6) State Cal EPA Building Height 372 ft. Constructed 2000
In subsequent pages I will look at the history and development of each of these six tallest buildings. Some of these buildings have extraordinary interiors, museums and great places to eat. Many have an interesting history as well. Together they help form the first glimpse of the urban fabric we see as we drive through or fly over Sacramento. Granted there are many interesting buildings in Sacramento that did not make this list of height over achievers. However stick with me and let me begin to tell these stories of Sacramento's skyscrapers beginning in the early months of 2013.
Heilbron House: A Reminder of What Once Was
Situated amongst a maze of banal state office buildings , Heilrbon House is a reminder of what once was a magnificent neighborhood of Sacramento in the late 1800's. However to glimpse at this magnificent Italiante home shows the tremendous amount of detail that went into its construction.
The house was constructed for August Heilbron, a German immigrant, in 1881. He wanted to have a home that was close to the State Capitol. The home was designed by Nathaniel Goodell the same architect who designed the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento. Homes of slightly less size were part of the neighborhood up until just around World War 2. Beginning then the neighborhood was razed to allow for construction of state buildings.
Over the years I can remember that this building was once the home of a savings and loan and open to the public. Now it is owned by the California Department of Parks and Recreation who uses it as an office building. The building is not currently open to the public which is a shame.
Sacramento History Museum
Situated in Old Sacramento, the Sacramento History Museum is housed in a building designed to depict the 1854 Sacramento City Hall and Water Works. The original building included functions including the mayor's office, police department, court offices and jail. The building was demolished in 1913. The Sacramento History Museum was completed in 1985, about twenty years after revitalization efforts in Old Town commenced.
Today it is a modern three story building filled with exhibits that span from the time when Native American people occupied the site up to Post World War 2. The exhibits are well maintained and there are even interpretive spaces for children to sit and learn about the City's history.
The only thing I found as a visitor was that there was no clear chronological flow progression as you walked through the museum. I was also not given a map of the exhibits or asked if there was anything in particular I was looking for or anyone pointing out new exhibits. However all of the staff were friendly.
So would I recommend seeing the museum for someone visiting Sacramento? If you were really interested in the City of Sacramento and its history I would say yes. Otherwise if time was limited I would pass on it and visit the California State Railroad Museum which is right next door.
Hours of operation are from 10 am to 5 pm daily. Tickets are $ 6.00 for adults, $4.00 for youths 6 tp 17, and children 5 and under are free.
cal state university at sacramento
California State University at Sacramento, formerly known as Sacramento State, is the largest comprehensive university in the Sacramento area. While only founded in 1947 today it has over 29,000 students. It offers bachelors, masters and doctoral credentials in over 200 degree programs.
The campus located off of Highway 50 in Sacramento is relatively new by college standards. It was founded in 1947 and moved to its current location right off the American River in 1953.
Aside from being a good place to go to school, the campus is a nice place to access a particularly nice portion of the American River. While the campus does have a few interestingly designed buildings its real attraction is its location adjacent to the American River. To access this area take the Power Inn Road/Howe Avenue exit off of U.S. 50. Follow the signs to Sacramento State University which will place you on College Town Drive. The entrance to the university is about a mile and turn right onto State University Drive East. Look on the left handside of the street for Parking Structure # 2 ( a multi-level lot) and park your car. Take the Guy West Foot Bridge, a minor replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, across the river and then follow the footpath down to the river.
Walk and Look at the Second Street Space
Second Street is one of the two north-south streets in Old Sacramento. The majority of the buildings are recreations of what Sacramento looked like in the late 1800's. Much of this work was done with through the financial assistance of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. Several of the buildings are done so well with wide sweeping verandas and porches they are worth looking at even though they may house some tacky gift stores and restaurants.
For a quick five minute walk start at the California Rail Museum and walk south. In the middle of the walk you will see on your left hand side a tunnel that connects old Sacramento with Sacramento downtown proper. The tunnel has some interesting art and will take you to the Downtown Mall.
American River Bike Trail
Sacramento is fortunate to have one of the best bike trails in California. It is called the American River Bike Trail but sometimes referred to as the Jedediah Smith National Recreation Trail. It extends some 32 miles from downtown Sacramento out to Folsom Lake. The trail for all but one mile is completely separated from motor vehicles making it a delight to travel on.
Many Sacramento cyclists use the bike trail to commute to work. Others like myself just love to get out on it for a few miles. There are many places to stop and rest. There is only about a 435 foot elevation increase as you move from downtown Sacramento to Folsom Lake.
Now if you don't have a bike you can also walk in separate pedestrian areas along the Bike Trail. There are several great places to do this including out near Sacramento State University, Lake Natoma, and Goethe Park.
For a good map of the bike trail use this link;
Union Pacific: Building America in 150 Years
On the last two days of September, 2012 the Union Pacific, in conjunction with the California Department of Parks and Recreation hosted a celebration of rail in the Western United States. There were many locomotives, passenger cars, exhibits, and live entertainment during these two days. Union Pacific Railroad brought an impressive number of displays to Sacramento to celebrate the 150 years of rail. It was in 1862 that construction men from the Union Pacific Railroad started in Sacramento to meet the Central Pacific Railroad in the east which was building the transcontinental railroad in the United States.
Most of the exhibits were unique in that the trains were not normally on view. They had been stored by the railroad in another location and not open for view. Crowds were light in the morning but grew significantly toward noon. I enjoyed the exhibits and the free admission into the California Railroad Museum.
An Ok Zoo That Is Hemmed In From Growing
The Sacramento Zoo is a very small zoo located on just 14 acres in Land Park. it opened in Land Park on a much smaller site in 1927. The Sacramento Zoological Society was formed in 1957 to help fund new exhibits and education at the zoo.
While the zoo is tiny it is clean, well run and has a great group of volunteers. There are approximately 400 animals to be found here. A good portion of the zoo has older cages and is in need of some updating. However as funds from the Zoological Society and other groups make funds available the Zoo has managed to add new exhibits.
The Sacramento Zoo is best suited for smaller kids who have limited experience seeing other animals. Older kids will likely be bored particularly if they have seen other zoos.
The last time I was at the zoo was around two years ago. The giraffes are my favorite thing to visit at this zoo. There is a Giraffe Encounter area where you can feed the giraffes which is a lot of fun. The exhibit featuring the tigers and cats is also done well, being improved from years past.
Parking is easy at the zoo and there is no cost for parking even though you might have to walk a ways.
The zoo is also moderately priced with general admission being $ 11.25 and children 2-11 being $ 7.25. Seniors get a 75 cent reduction in tickets.
The Zoo is open 9 am to 4 pm during the summer and from 10 to 4 pm the rest of the year.
Fairytale Town For the Kids
Fairytale Town has been part of Land Park since 1959 when it was developed by a partnership of the City of Sacramento, Junior League and several area businesses. My kids went there many times when they were young either to check out the attractions or to attend neighborhood birthday parties.
According to its website Fairytale Town's mission is to promote the imagination, creativity and education of area children. To do so the park has a vast array of attractions including 25 play sets, many farm animals, and two stages. All of this is situated on 2.5 acres across from the Sacramento Zoo.
Among the most popular attractions are the Crooked Mile, Old Lady and the Shoe, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Sherwood Forest. Animals are brought from adjacent pens into the park in the afternoon for children to learn about and pet. There is also a magic storybook key that can be purchased at the park to unlock some of the tales and songs of the nursery rhymes.
Fairytale Town represents cheap entertainment and a little education for local and out of town kids. Kids older than seven or so will quickly tire of the attractions and want to move on to something more exciting outside of the park.
Tickets for children 2-11 and adults are $4.00 during the week and $5.00 on weekends. Children under 2 are free. If you are planning on also attending the Sacramento Zoo across the street on the same day a combined ticket will save you a couple of dollars.
Hours of Operation: March 1 – October 31 (weather permitting)
Open Daily, 9AM – 4PM
Guests who are in the park by 4PM may stay and play until 5PM
California State Capitol: Building Interior
There are a number of ways to see the interior of the California State Capitol. First, walk through it at your own pace. The building is open on the north side seven days a week. Second, take a free tour. Tours of the Capitol Building are given every hour on the hour from 8 am to 5 pm on the weekdays and 9 to 5 pm weekends. The tours are led by docents who on my latest tour was a young man who worked as an intern and was quite knowledgable about the building. There is a tour information office in the basement of the State Capitol. There you can get information on special exhibits and make sure you are signed up for the tour that meets in the middle of the basement. The tours last about an hour. No climbing of steps is required. Elevators move you from floor to floor.
The interior of the State Capitol still glistens in beauty from the major work that was performed on it between 1975 and 1982. It is worthy of a visit. The views of the rotunda from the second floor, seeing some of the historic state offices of the Treasurer and Governor, and viewing the operating chambers of the Assembly and Senate make this worthwhile for young and old.
California State Capitol: The Building Exterior
Seeing the magnificent neoclassical California State Capitol building is high on nearly everyone's list who visits Sacramento. When it is first seen coming from Capitol Mall east it appears to be perfectly framed with respect to the street and area.
However finding the right location for the California State Capitol building was far from easy. There were several different locations and at least seven plans that were reviewed before deciding on this one. The building was designed by architects Reuben Clark and M. F. Butler. Work was commenced on constructing the building in 1860 but it took nearly 14 years to complete. In addition, the original budget of $100,000 grew to nearly $2.5 million by the time it was finished. There is a great exhibit in the California State Capitol Museum detailing the physical, political, and economic problems with completing the building.
A major renovation of the State Capitol Building occurred between 1975 and 1982. It was partially done to make the retrofit the building for earthquakes as well as provide some needed cosmetic changes.
Today's neo-classical building draws from earlier designs in the U.S. State Capitol Building and several other older state buildings. A central feature of the building is a portico opening into a grand rotunda which leads to a dome. A series of granite archways and fluted Cornithian columns support and brace the portico. The dome itself is 210 feet high or about the height of a fourteen story building.
To fully admire the beauty of the building you need to walk completely around it. I suggest starting on the west side of the building and then circling south to N Street and then around the building to L Street and back. While the other views are not quite as magnificent as the west view it provides some great views of the dome framed by some beautiful trees.
For a great history of the State Capitol building and its construction visit the below web site.
Farmers Market- Caesar Chavez Plaza
Farm fresh produce is sometimes hard to find when you are visiting the downtown of a big city. Well if you happen to be in downtown Sacramento on a Wednesday during the spring to early fall be sure to drop by Caesar Chavez Plaza for one of the larger farmers markets in the area. This certified farmers market brings in fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, cheeses and baked goods from the surrounding area. It is open every Wednesday from at least 10 am to 2 pm. The market is provided by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership in coordination with certified farmers markets.
Beautiful Capitol Park
Capitol Park, located just east of the State Capitol Building, is one of my favorite places in Sacramento. The park has trees from all over the world. There is a gorgeous rose garden that appears to be in bloom nearly the entire year. With its numerous concrete paths it is a place to stroll, reflect and relax. On weekdays it is a frequent place for legislative staffers and state employees to sit on a bench and enjoy their lunch.
The park also contains a number of memorials;
1) Civil War Memorial Grove- a little grove contained trees from the famous battlefields of the Civil War which was planted here in 1897.
2) California Vietnam Veterans Memorial- A touching memorial containing bronze statues showing military life in Vietnam and a memorial to the men and women who lost their life there. ( See Special Page on Memorial)
3) California Fire Fighters Memorial- A memorial to the men and women who protect us from fire and to those who have lost their life fighting it.
4) Father Junipero Serra Memorial- A life like statue of the man who came to Spain as a missionary and who founded a string of twenty one missions in California in the 1700's.
Capitol Park is open all week from sunrise to after sunset. There are no picnic tables in the park and alcoholic beverages are not allowed.
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