Benicia—California’s 1853-54 State Capital

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Benicia State Capital
Benicia State Capital. Original stone and brick structure built in 1853

Within two years of the discovery of Gold at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra’s, California became America’s 31st state on September 9, 1850. The provisional Capital had been in Monterey, but upon Statehood the first state capital was located in San Jose.


Less than a year later it was moved to Vallejo, but a lack housing led the government to move the capital to Benicia in 1853. At the time, Benicia was an economic powerhouse and was the state’s third incorporated city. But a combination of political power plays and the fact that Sacramento was more centrally located to the center of the state’s economic activity in the nearby Sierra foothill goldfields led the legislature to move the capital to Sacramento in the spring of 1854. Benicia’ classic Greek Revival, sandstone and brick State Capital building, with fluted columns remains as California’s only surviving pre-Sacramento State House. Situated just off First Street in the heart of old town Benicia, the old Capital has been restored to original condition, including vintage desks, quill pens, spittoons, and whale oil lamps on the walls. A California State Historic Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Capital is a step back in time to the heyday of the California Gold Rush era. Come along and join State Park docent, Mike Caplan for a walking tour of the old capital. Benicia is located 35 miles from San Francisco between San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay. For further information about the historic Benicia State Capital State Historic Landmark and historic Benicia, log on to

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