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Old Sacrament Waterfront

These 28 acres on Sacramento’s historic waterfront were the site of both tragedy — fire and flood — and triumph — the raising of the streets, the founding of the Transcontinental Railroad, the terminus of the Pony Express, and the home of California’s first thriving business district, fueled by gold, agriculture, and the river.

Due to past and current efforts by the State of California, private and public museums, individuals, businesses, the City and County of Sacramento, the Historic Old Sacramento Foundations, scores of volunteers, and many others, Old Sacramento Waterfront lives on as thriving shopping and entertainment district as well as a global tourist destination.


In 1839 John Sutter arrived on the shore of the American River near its confluence with the Sacramento River. With the promise of a Mexican land grant, Sutter and his landing party established Sutter’s Fort. As the settlement grew and became permanent, it attracted other business people looking for opportunities. Sutter and the people he attracted created a commercial center in the area, but the Gold Rush in 1848 created the City of Sacramento, California.

When gold was discovered in the nearby foothills by James Marshall, local merchant Sam Brannan rushed to open a store near the Sacramento River to take advantage of the convenient waterfront location. As a result, what was then called Sutter’s Embarcadero was soon known as the City of Sacramento. The city rapidly grew into a trading center for miners outfitting themselves for the gold fields.

Early Sacramento’s waterfront location was prime for commercial success but was prone to severe flooding. The city also fell victim to repeated fires engulfing its hastily constructed buildings composed mainly of wood and canvas. In 1850 the new city experienced its first devastating flood, and in 1852 the city was again wiped out by high water. It was apparent that drastic measures would have to be taken to save it. EZ Sacramento Junk Removal

In 1853 a mammoth project was proposed to raise the city above the flood level. The ambitious and expensive proposal was fully accepted when another devastating flood swept through the city in 1862. Thousands of cubic yards of earth were brought in on wagons within a few years, and the daring scheme to raise the street level began. The original street level can be seen throughout Old Sacramento under the boardwalks and basements.

The center of the commercial district gradually moved east, and the original part of the city on Sutter’s Embarcadero became known as the worst skid row west of Chicago. Reformers, ministers, politicians, and others spoke out against conditions in this part of the city, but little was done to change the basic conditions.

Address: 1014 2nd St, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA

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