Before Sacramento became the capital of California for good, the Golden State’s capital changed cities several times.
The state capital was Monterey when California was part of Mexico, and then different cities were selected.
According to the California State Library, these other California cities served as the state’s capital:
- Monterey (1774 to 1849)
- San Jose (1849 to 1851)
- Vallejo (1852 to 1853)
- Benicia (1853 to 1854)
- Sacramento (1854 to present)
San Francisco was also briefly the seat of the state government in 1862 due to flooding in Sacramento. The State Legislature temporarily moved its operations to the Merchants’ Exchange Building in San Francisco.
After concluding the 1862 session, the legislature relocated again to Sacramento.
As for the Merchants Exchange Building, it didn’t survive the 1906 earthquake, which killed over 3,000 people and destroyed 28,000 buildings, according to the United States Geological Survey.
After moving multiple times during California’s early days as a state, why did the state settle on having Sacramento as its capital?
How did Sacramento become the state capital?
After the state had difficulties establishing a permanent building for government in San Jose, Vallejo and Benicia, the city of Sacramento offered its county courthouse on 7th and I streets to be used as the Capitol in 1852, according to the California State Library.
The State Legislature found the location acceptable and agreed for the Sacramento County courthouse to serve as the Capitol from 1852 to 1854. The California State Library said there were no plans to be made to relocate to another city, but about a month after the legislature adjourned in July 1854, the wooden courthouse “along with a considerable portion of the city” was destroyed in a fire.
Construction of a new courthouse to temporarily serve as the Capitol began on September 1854 and was finished in January 1855 before the legislature was scheduled to meet again. The building housed Assembly and Senate chambers, offices for the clerks and legislative offices along with the State Controller and Treasurer.
That building continued to serve as the Capitol for 14 years while the current Capitol was being constructed, which didn’t become occupied until 1869 when the legislative moved there.
The courthouse Capitol building was redesigned in 1913 and remained a courthouse until 1965 before being demolished. In that space sits the Sacramento County Main Jail now.
The “New Capitol”
When the legislature moved to the current Capitol building, the governor and secretary of state offices opened for the first time on Nov. 26, 1869. Construction of the new Capitol finished in 1874.
The current Capitol building stands at L and 10th streets in downtown Sacramento and has served as the Capitol since 1869.
As the 20th century was approaching, the Capitol attic was converted into a new fourth floor for office space due to the growth of the State Legislature.
In 1899, Secretary of State C.F. Curry authorized the conversion and the space became occupied by committee rooms and offices for the President Pro Tem of the State Senate.
A new governor’s office was made when the Capitol Annex was built and finished at the end of 1951. The Capital Annex hallways connected to the “New Capitol” and Earl Warren became the first governor to occupy the new governor’s office.