***From Wikipedia :" Before Sacramento's extensive levee system was in place, the area flooded quite regularly. Because of this, the cities' streets were raised a level. Most of the sidewalks and storefronts have been filled in, however many tunnels still remain throughout Old Sacramento and the downtown area."
***From Historic Old Sac ( click for more info and a photo): "...a unique glimpse into the massive and dramatic undertaking that took place when the streets were painstakingly raised in the 1860s through the 1870s to protect the city from devastating flooding. Underground tour visitors will have the opportunity to view disappearing windows and doors, dipping alleyways, exposed retaining walls, walk into underground hollow sidewalks and tour historic buildings all while being entertained and educated by tour guides and docents who portray characters true to the period."
So upon exiting the museum and having made sure that we all knew to stay close to Ted, watch for traffic, and that our head sets were working so we could hear him, we all set off to our first stop. What was once the Yuba Theater, and now renamed the Eagle. We all walked in and took a seat and were given the history of Old Sacramento and how it came to have an underground. So here is a brief over view and bullet points for what I was able to gather notes on...Ted gave us A LOT of info in a short period of time!! So it was hard to write it all down! But will do my best here to share it.
The original theater was built in 1849/1850 and of ship sails and wood. It was built out of what the people had. When ship captains brought cargo and miners and to Sacramento they decided to stay, and so the ships were left in harbor and dismantled and structures built with what came from the ships. The theater at the time cost 80 thousand dollars to build,and at that time that was a lot of money for a "tent" .
We sat and watched a film , and one of the visuals was that of what the John Sutter first saw when arriving in 1838 by ship into the port . The river/water/flood plane in was at the same level as the entire town. In many of the trees there was remnants of past floods. This was not a great set up for a city and certainly was a recipe for disaster and destruction. He choose to build his fort two miles away on higher ground! Smart guy!
Soon another man by the name of Sam Brannan came to town and he is known for starting the gold rush in 1849. He was pretty smart. He went up and down to San Fancisco and other outlining areas and bought up all the gold mining equipment and therefore cornering the market. Then he showed one gold nugget and the gold rush in the area began and of course all the miners came to him, and of course he marked up the supplies and made a nice little profit.
Now remember what the theater aka the tent was built out of? Well the ship captains as I said stayed after bringing miners and got caught up in all the hoopla that Sam started! Pretty smart guy.
Around the same time, in 1849 we also got our first Mayor. His name was Hardin Bigelow, and there is a building named after him as well. He did not fare so well . He was shot at 37, then got cholera and dies.
In 1850 California becomes a state. Then Sacramento flooded soon after. Then there was a great fire. Cholera takes hold and then fast forward, but not by much, keeping in mind the city has been rebuilt a couple times by now as tents and wood structures could not hold up to all the things that happened, and we are in 1852. The great conflagration(***CLICK HERE for more detailed history, put far better than I took notes for) happens on November 2, 1852. Fire had once again destroyed the city and it was declared that all buildings be built out of brick. Brick protects against fire, flood etc and gives the city a solid feeling, like a place that should be our capitol city and not just a town.
It seemed that was a timely decision, but not made timely enough! there was a great storm in 1862, and as most of the men had switched from mining to live stock by that time when it hit, it took 62% of the livestock with it. The town was devastated.
An interesting fact was that Sacramento became the capitol in 1854, but because of the flood they moved the legislation to San Francisco, and it nearly stayed there, and SF would have been our new capitol city, but it was eventually brought back in 1865 and has been here ever since.
The city, to recover, and stay a city and not become the Town of Sacramento built levees , actually changed the route of the American River, making it deeper, wider and strait! Then they went about raising the city streets/buildings. The original county court house took 400 jack screws to raise, and was done in 1870. It took years and years as men only had shovels and wheel barrows and the jack screws and could only raise a building about 2 inches a day...it was the daily entertainment for many for a very long time.
Things we were told to look for was split bricks , where bricks were actually cut length wise to fit in gaps. Bulk heads, and disappearing windows, where the street went at an angle and you can see a full sized window bricked in and then each window as the street raises appears less and less till you are just left with a very small portion still showing.
The next photos, I have shown you before and I always wondered what it was....all the remnants of left over buildings that were not reconstructed have been put in one place and there is a stair case to the original street level....
Next it was off to the Adam's Express Building....Inside is being used today buy a business so it is all painted and carpeted...not quite what I was expecting to see, but there is photos of Old Sacramento after the flood and during reconstruction as well as some of the exposed bulk heads and closed over windows and door ways....the raised area in the room was told to us that it was the original sidewalk.
Two steps up to the original sidewalk. Exposed former windows...
Old doorways frame new....
Stairs to the current, modern day streets...
Reminders of days gone by....
The actual building we were standing in when it was at street level.Before and after!
In we go. Here is a shot of the building from back in the 50's and you can see cars parked at the original street level and how high the buildings were actually raised! And just one small case of artifacts that have been found on the dig going on currently. I so wish I had more photos to share, but alas we were not allowed. If you click on the above links, where I posted some history I gathered from web sites, there is one more photo of the interior of this building.
As quickly as we entered as left and were back outside. The next building on the tour, and we only just passed with a brief pause for the history is I believe, the Sam Brannan or Harden Bigelow building but for some reason I was only able to write "V.B" ( please forgive) while we were walking at a fast clip. The V.B building is the most haunted of the buildings in Historic Sacramento ...maybe that is why I could not get all the history and the origin of the name down...GHOSTS were mentioned LOL There has been four known ghosts recently seen, contacted, felt , what have you in this building during an investigation. One bit of interesting points of interest ...notice the iron shutters..these are to protect against fire....
The side of the building shows some of the remnants of bricked off door ways and windows as the alley slopes up. The bricks were all hand made locally. The interesting thing about that is not all were created equal and it made it harder to raise the town as some bricks would just crumble in the effort.