Tuesday, November 01, 2005

CA Historical Landmark #574

Site of the State Capitol at Vallejo
California State Historical Landmark #574

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Vallejo was the official seat of State government from February 4, 1851 to February 4, 1853. The Capitol, shown on the plaque, within which the legislature convened in 1852 and 1853, stood near this spot.

From the Vallejo Museum Site:
Tenure As State Capital: 1851-1853

With the onslaught of Americans participating in the California Gold Rush, General Vallejo saw that the territory was destined to pass from the hands of the Mexican government to become part of the United States. He made a strong attempt to become involved in the establishment of a state capital on his lands. With statehood in 1850, the new California State Legislature considered Vallejo's offer to move from San Jose. He offered to lay out a city, to be named "Eureka" or a name the Legislature might suggest, and to donate to the state 156 acres for the construction of a state capitol, university, botanical garden, state penitentiary, schools, hospitals, and asylums. In addition to the free land, General Vallejo also promised to give $370,000 to pay for construction of the buildings. A state-wide referendum on the matter was held in late 1850, and General Vallejo's proposal was accepted, with one change-the city would be called "Vallejo," after its founder.

In 1851, the State Senate appointed a commission to layout the new state capital. They reported back that they had placed the capitol, the governor's house, the university and several other public institutions on an elevated hill "immediately above the secure and commodious harbor of Napa Bay, from which, on a clear day might be seen the city and shipping of San Francisco." The lunatic asylum was to be placed nearby, and the penitentiary on the nearest prominent hill to the Carquinez Straits, to serve as a warning to "rascals" on their way to the goldfields. By late 1851, all was in readiness, and the California Legislature convened in 1852 in Vallejo.

Unfortunately for the legislators, the State Capitol promised by General Vallejo had not been built, and they were forced to meet in a leaking old structure, using barrels for seats and boxes for desks. Motions were immediately introduced to move the state capital out of Vallejo, and, after meeting for only eleven days, the Legislature moved to Sacramento for the remainder of the session. The following year, the Legislature again convened in Vallejo, for the purpose of moving the capital to Benicia, and on February 4, 1853, exactly two years after the seat of government came to Vallejo, it was moved to Benicia.

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