California Cities

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park

Benicia, California's 3rd Capitol

Benicia is a San Francisco East Bay waterfront city approx. 37 miles northeast of San Francisco and 58 miles southwest of Sacramento. Overlooking the impressive Carquinez Strait, Benicia's waterfront is a focal point to the city, providing inspiration with its commanding views. The waterfront is home to Benicia State Recreation Area and Benicia Marina, and provides a great starting point for exploring the history and treasures within this city of under 30,000 people. (Benicia State Recreation Area and Benicia Capitol State Historic Park are located in California State Parks Bay Area region.)

With waterfront & bay views, Benicia's First Street Promenade is where former shipyards, tanneries and a ferry terminal, provided another unique layer in the city's history that includes even Jack London. A marker on First Street commemorates Jack London's John Barleycorn and Tales of the Fish Patrol, written about Benicia. First Street is the heart of the city's unique, annual events such as the 4th of July Parade, Fireworks Display and Benicia Peddlers Fair.

First Street (in Downtown Benicia) is the recommended place to enjoy a stroll where you can see more than 30 historical points of interest. 19th century buildings that include Victorians showcase the city's history as California's third capital.

Before Sacramento became the official state capitol, Benicia served that honor for thirteen months during 1853 and 1854. The city was actually founded in 1847 two years before the Gold Rush, and is named for Francisca Maria Felipa Benicia Carillo de Vallejo, whose husband was a general. Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, 2060 Camel Road, includes extensive historical documents and antique collections to explore for those seeking to connect with the city's history.

Special events each year include a visit with St. Nicholas in the Fischer-Hanlon House where you can learn how the city of Benicia prepared for the California state legislature of 1853 at the Benicia Capitol. It is part of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park (115 West G Street, Benicia, CA 94510.

Things to see & do:

Farmers Market: There is a Farmers Market downtown on Thursday evenings from late April through October

Art Studio Open Houses: Artists in Benicia open their studios to the public the weekend before Mother's Day in May and the first weekend in December

Torchlight Parade: Traditionally held on July 3, Benicia's 4th of July parade stretches all the way down First Street and includes music, dancing, floats, horses, clowns and live entertainment.

Picnic in the Park & Fireworks: On July 4, there is a large community picnic at Benicia's City Park, traditionally starting at noon. Shortly after dark, there is a fireworks display that originates at the foot of First Street.

Benicia Peddlers Fair: This outdoor event began downtown in 1963 and has grown to more than 300 antique and collectible dealers along the length of First Street.

Yacht Races and Opening Day on the Strait: Held the third Saturday in April, it features a decorated boat parade and blessing of the fleet, arts and crafts vendors, live music in front of the Benicia Yacht Club, food, games and dancing in the evening.

The Holy Ghost Parade: Every fourth Sunday in July, the Portuguese community in Benicia celebrates the feast of the Holy Ghost, commemorating the Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal.

Downtown Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting: Held the first Friday in December, this ever-popular holiday event features beverages and treats, costumed carolers, wagon rides and wine tasting. The City of Benicia caps off the evening with a holiday tree lighting.

Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, 2060 Camel Road- The museum encompasses four buildings, including the Silas Casey building documenting Benicia's past as the site of canneries, shipbuilding, shipping and railroad transportation.

The Clock Tower Fortress, 1189 Washington Street: Built in 1859, this sandstone military bastion was strategically built atop Army Point to control the key passageway of Carquinez Strait to the gold mines of the interior and was designed to protect the post from Indian attacks, although the "Old Fort" never fired a shot in anger, even during the alarms of Civil War days. I

Commanding Officer's Quarters Mansion, 1 Commandant's Lane: 2-story, 20-room Greek Revival mansion built in 1860 is listed on the National Register of Historical Buildings.

Jefferson Street Mansion, 1063 Jefferson Street - 3-story Arsenal building built in 1861.

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