Sacramento sits at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. All along both rivers are nicely paved and well maintained bike paths. One path runs right past Cal Expo where we are staying. So on our first day here we rode our bikes about seven miles into Old Sacramento and the downtown capitol area. Old Sacramento is an area along the Sacramento River that has been restored to the late 1800s. We spent just a few minutes there before crossing into the downtown to visit the state capitol. But we plan to return to Old Sacramento, so we’ll have more on that area in a future post.
The Capitol was built between 1861 and 1874 in a design based on the U.S. Capitol building. Like that building, it has a large rotunda area in the middle with a legislative chamber on either side.
In the 1950s an addition, called the Annex, was built on to the back of the building. The original building has four floors with high ceilings, while the newer Annex has five stories with lower ceilings. This makes for an interesting situation where the hallways meet (or don’t meet). In the picture below, taken from the second floor of the rotunda, you can see part of the annex second floor. The next picture is taken from the first floor of the rotunda and more clearly shows the second floor of the Annex where it doesn’t match the old section.
The governor’s office is just down the hall from the rotunda in the Annex. An 800 pound bronze statue of a grizzly bear stands guard in front of the door. The statue was purchased by former Governor Schwarzenegger at an Aspen art store, using his own money. The bear, a symbol of California that is on the state flag, is nick-named “bacteria bear” because so many children and visitors touch it. Talk among the capitol guides is that the current governor, Jerry Brown, doesn’t care much for the statue but doesn’t know what to do with it.
The grounds around the capitol building, called Capitol Park, covers forty acres and contains over eight hundred trees and flowering shrubs from around the world. A few examples of trees are pictured below.
A row of ten deodar cedar trees, whose branches can stretch across two city blocks, line the west side of the Capitol. Eight are part of the original twelve planted in 1872.
The Bunya Bunya is native to Australia and was named by the aborigines. The one pictured was planted in 1887. A mature tree can reach up to eighty feet and produces a pineapple-like cone that can weigh up to fifteen pounds.
Below is a Seville Orange Tree. It has a fragrant blossom but the oranges are very sour.
On the east side of the park is the World Peace Rose Garden. The garden contains 650 roses in over 140 varieties. It was established to draw attention to the needs of women, children, and families for love and peace. Apparently men don’t have a need for world peace. Inspirational peace messages written by grade school children are inscribed on plaques throughout the garden.
It seems that a third grader has world peace figured out.
One of the many monuments in the park is one honoring Californians who served in Vietnam. The exterior black granite panels are engraved with the names of 5,822 Californians who died or are missing in the Vietnam conflict. Interior panels represent combat, daily life, a nurse, and a prisoner of war.
In the center is a nineteen-year-old infantryman, representing the average age of those who were lost.
Just a short time ago we visited the capitol of Oregon in Salem. The contrast between the two is apparent the minute you enter the property. In Salem we rode our bicycles all over the grounds. In California a policeman quickly came out the front entrance to tell us we could not ride in the capitol area. We walked into the capitol building in Salem with a backpack and were able to walk anywhere without any security check. In Sacramento we encountered security similar to an airport, with at least five security guards checking visitors and scanning everything. But the California Capitol Building was still a very enjoyable visit.