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Poverty Ridge

The Poverty Ridge Historic District is within Sacramento, California‘s original 1848 street grid and is roughly bounded by 21st Street to the west, S Street to the north, 23rd Street to the east, and W Street and U.S. Route 50 to the south. The district also incorporates the block bounded by 20th, 21st, S, and T streets. The district contains a collection of houses in various architectural styles that were part of one of Sacramento’s wealthiest and most prestigious neighborhoods in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The district’s largest and most elaborate houses are arranged around two north-south streets, 21st and 22nd, while several smaller houses are concentrated along the district’s southern and eastern borders.


The Poverty Ridge Historic District preserves an area considered to be Sacramento’s wealthiest neighborhood in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The neighborhood is slightly rising in the southeast quadrant of Sacramento’s original 1848 city limits. Because it was one of the only elevated areas within the city, residents often fled to this area for safety during the floods that periodically devastated Sacramento in the nineteenth century. People camping out on the ridge looked so poor that locals nicknamed the area “Poverty Ridge.”

Despite the area’s advantageous location and reputation as “the most beautiful eminence in the city,” Poverty Ridge remained sparsely populated until the late nineteenth century. Burns Slough, which ran between 18th and 19th streets, often turned the blocks between the ridge and 14th Street into “an almost impassable quagmire,” preventing potential residents from reaching the area. Beginning in 1868, the city carried out several projects to address the flooding issue around Burns Slough, initially strengthening levees and later redirecting through underground sewers and drainage tunnels.

Residential development began in Poverty Ridge in the late nineteenth century. By then, increasing industrialization, the influx of low-income workers, and the expanding impact of the Southern Pacific Railroad on the environment and local politics had turned the city’s downtown core into a crowded, polluted, dirty, and crime-ridden area. Seeking quieter, cleaner, and safer places to live, Sacramento’s affluent middle- and upper-class residents began to migrate to new neighborhoods, such as Poverty Ridge, emerging on the city’s undeveloped tracts to the south and east. EZ Sacramento Junk Removal

Poverty Ridge became the neighborhood of choice for Sacramento’s wealthiest and most influential citizens. Residents included Buffalo Brewery founder Herman Grau, Pioneer Box Company president John Stevens, and Sacramento Bee editor Charles K. McClatchy. In 1893, developers attempted to rebrand the neighborhood as “Sutter Terrace.” An article in the Sacramento Daily Union reveals the attitude of some residents toward the proposal:

The resident property-owners in the high district bounded generally by Twentieth and Twenty-third, P and W Streets are getting to be aristocratic in their notions and from their heights, are inclined to look down patronizingly on the balance of the city. They have about concluded that the names “Poverty Ridge,” “Nob Hill,” etc., are entirely too common and that hereafter these names shall be relegated to the “days of ‘49,” and the heights in question known as “Sutter Terrace.”

The new name did not stick, and the neighborhood continued to be known as “Poverty Ridge.”

Poverty Ridge’s principal blocks between 21st, T, 23rd, and V streets featured generously sized lots on which large, single-family houses could be built. Highly-regarded local architects designed many houses on these blocks, reflecting the most fashionable architectural styles of the time. Charles McClatchy’s Beaux-Arts style house at 2112 22nd Street was built in 1910 and designed by distinguished local architect Rudolph Herold. In 1940, the McClatchy family donated the house to the City of Sacramento, CA, and it remains a public library today. Next door at 2100 22nd Street, Herold designed his own home in the Prairie style. More modest houses and apartment buildings for middle-class residents were built on smaller lots around the periphery of Poverty.

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