Sacramento (1869-Now)

Current California State Capitol
Location: 10th St & L St, Sacramento, CA 95814
State Capitol (1869 to Present)

The construction of the state capitol began on September 24, 1860. The first work was excavation of the basement wall near M and 11th. The corner-stone, laid at the north-east corner of the building, was placed on May 15, 1861. Because the hill that the Capitol sits on hadn’t been formed at the time, the corner-stone is now located approximately six feet underground. Most of the granite for the construction was mined from a quarry on the American River in Folsom on the grounds of the state prison. According to the State Capitol Museum, as construction continued through the first floor, the source of granite was changed from Folsom to Penryn (seven miles north of Folson). On the exterior of the building, the darker granite is from the Folsom area; the lighter is from Penryn.

The Governor and Secretary of State’s offices opened for the first time on November 26, 1869. The gold-plated ball at the top of the cupola (240 feet above street level) was signed by Secretary of State on October 30th, 1871. Construction finally finished in 1874. The rotunda was open to the public until about 1877, when Thomas Beck ordered it closed because of graffiti and “obscene and improper writing”.

Even at the turn of the century, the state legislature was beginning to outgrow its home. In 1899, Secretary of State C.F. Curry authorized the conversion of the Capitol attic (until then used for storage) into a new fourth floor that would be used for office space. This space is hosts committee rooms and the offices of the President pro Tem of the State Senate.

This work lessened the pressure and further construction was delayed until the addition of the Capitol Annex in the 1940s. The ground-breaking for the Annex took place on June 3, 1949. The Apse, which had been home to the State Library for 80 years, was demolished in July and August, with the new structure quickly rising in its place. The Annex was completed, and the hallways connecting it to the “New Capitol” were opened at the end of 1951. Earl Warren became the first Governor to occupy the new Governor’s office on October 29, 1951.

The 2001 Truck Attack

Photo Credit: Richard Paul

On the evening of January 16, 2001 the south side of the State Capitol was severely damaged when a semi-trailer smashed into a committee room. Shortly after nine pm, long-distance truck driver Mike Bowers took the Downtown exit from Highway 99. He drove his truck, a three-year-old black 1998 Freightliner Condo semi-trailer, loaded with 20 tons of canned “evaporated milk”. Bowers circled his truck around the Capitol, driving from L Street (on the north side of the Capitol) to N Street (on the south side) before turning south onto 13th street. He continued south for five blocks south before using S street to cut two blocks over to 11th Street. Bowers then raced north on 11th Street, running three stop signs and approaching highway speeds before slowing and coming to a stop just south of the Capitol Park.

After a short pause, Bowers pulled onto N Street to begin the loop again. Bowers then looped back south on 13th Street for five blocks before cutting back to 11th Street. With the Capitol in sight, Bowers began accelerating north on 11th street, again running the stop signs at Q, P, and O streets. Witnesses observed the vehicle reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour as it sped within feet of a light-rail train that was just pulling into the Archives Plaza station at 11th and O.

At 9:22 PM, the semi sped through a red light at N Street, and hopping the three-inch curb that rings Capitol Park, up the South Lawn. Reaching the base of the South Portico, the truck and trailer sped up two sets of stairs, and between two of the pillars. The 39 tons of metal and evaporated milk impacted the portico at 46 miles per hour, crashing through a window into the rear of Committee Room 113 and blowing open the South Portico Entrance. The impact was so severe that the truck radiator and AC condenser smashed all the way through and ended up in the last few rows of chairs in Room 113.

The fuel tanks burst into flames, starting a four-alarm fire that would burn for a half-hour, filling the Capitol with smoke. Although most of the damage from the fire itself was contained to the area around the South Portico and Room 113, there was massive water and smoke damage to the southern half of the Capitol (including the Senate Chambers and Historic Governor’s Office). The eventual restoration would eventually total $15 million.