A Capital Idea

Recently, my wife and I decided to get away for a long weekend. We had visited most of the typical California weekend getaways, like Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco. In our searching we came across the idea of Sacramento. We’ve lived in California since 1973 and yet hadn’t visited our capitol. So it was time.

It turned out to be a great weekend: informative and enjoyable. There are many really good museums, Old Sacramento, river cruises, train rides and of course the capitol building, which is quite impressive.

The capitol is situated at the end of the capitol mall  which stretches several blocks from the Sacramento river to the capitol building itself. The Capitol building serves as both a museum and the state’s working seat of government. Its architecture is Neo-classical very similar to our nation’s capitol but on a smaller scale.  There are many symbolic details.  The Great Seal is one of many symbols that decorate the Capitol and represent the state’s people and resources. In 1907, a stained glass representation of the Great Seal was installed in the ceiling of the second floor hallways leading from the Capitol’s rotunda. To show off an exciting technological advance of the time, electricity rather than sunshine was used to light up the seal.  California’s state flower, the California poppy, is portrayed in marble mosaic floors.  The capitol museums are not open and guided tours are not available due to the Covid restrictions.  We were, however,  able to explore the halls and rotunda.  We also had the opportunity to observe hearings in the Senate chamber. The Senate chamber has a gallery which allows the public not only to observe the proceedings, but also to provide comments.

The East Annex was completed in 1952 to create offices for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, legislators, and other state officials. Before the expansion, Assembly and Senate members had to carry out business on the floor of their respective chambers, or any other place they could find.  Currently, plans are being made to demolish this building and replace it, and it looks like construction is beginning.  Some critics believe this will cost at least $1.2 billion.   Sacramento also is the location of many of the state agencies such as the Employment Development Department,  the California State Library and the California Resources Department.

Sacramento is not only the seat of the state government – a state that represents the fifth largest economy in the world – but is also rich in the history of California’s growth and development. The east bound leg of the transcontinental railroad started from Sacramento. Sacramento also a wonderful railroad museum – said to be one of the three finest railroad museums in the world.

We so often complain that government never gets anything done, but a visit to our state capitol is a reminder that government mostly does get things done. We only seem to notice those projects or processes that are  delayed or canceled.   Our experience was very positive, and reaffirmed our appreciation of our state and our state government and our appreciation of those dedicated to the work of government.

A visit to Sacramento was a capitol idea.
Pat Callahan

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