Structure Type: built works - public buildings - capitols

Designers: Clark Reuben, Architect (firm); Clark and Kenitzer, Architects (firm); Girvigian, Raymond, Architect (firm); Albert Austin Bennett (architect); Reuben S. Clark (architect); Raymond Girvigian (architect); Henry Kenitzer (architect)

Dates: constructed 1860-1874

3 stories

1315 10th Street
Downtown, Sacramento, CA 95814

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The Capitol was located at 10th and L Streets.


Construction on the California State Capitol Building #6 took 14 years, beginning on 12/04/1860. The total cost for the building was $2.5 million, although Governor John B. Weller indicated that, in his view, the initial $100,000 appropriation would satisfy the needs of the CA State Legislature. Reuben S. Clark (d. 1866) of the San Francisco firm of Clark and Kenitzer produced the design, one reminiscent of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, and they worked with the original contractors, G.W. Blake and P. Edward Conner, of Sacramento. During the period 1862-1864, Clark had to resort to paying laborers on a day-to-day basis, as long-term construction contracts were not viable. Clark had a nervous breakdown in 1864 overseeing all of the details surrounding construction. He contended with severe flooding in the Sacramento area (1861-1862) and the State Legislature's partisan political bickering and reluctance to fund the undertaking adquately.

Building History

Building progress on the California State Capitol #6 proved slow due to the State Legilsature's meager finances and its requirement to make modest appropriations each time it was in session to pay workmen. The Sacramento Daily Union newspaper commented on constrcution progress in early 1862: "Strangers in the city from various parts of the State should not fail to visit while here the new State Capitol building. The foundation walls are rapidly approaching a completion, and enough granite has been set to satisfy anyone at a glance that the building, when completed, will compare favorably with anything of its character in the Union. Since the commencement of the work this season, one million and a half of brick have been laid in the wall, about the same number as laid last season. This aggregate of three millions does not complete the foundation wall, to do which will require several hundred thousand more. Unfortunately, the balance of the fund on hand, at the commencement of the session--$33,000--is not almost exhausted; and the work will be brought to a close in a time until another appropriation is made by the Legislature. The architect, R. Clark, has had many difficulties to contend with, resulting chiefly from the floods of last Winter. All the granite dressed last season has necessarily been redressed, as the sediment deposited by the flood so discolored the surface as to render it unfit for use. The work of dressing last year was also so imperfectly executed as to require revising." (See "City Intelligence: The New Capitol," Sacramento Daily Union, vol. 24, no. 3591, 10/01/1862, p. 5.) In CA during the 1861-1863 period, significant rains plagued the Northern CA, while droughts helped to derail the cattle economy of the Southern CA. The 01/1862 deluge in the north, as the article indicated, caused severe flooding of the American and Sacramento Rivers that required re-dressing of the granite caked with river sediment. The State legislature adjourned its session on 01/11/1862 due to the water, and reconvened in San Francisco for an abbreviated term. Work on the Capitol #7 until 08/1862.

Periodically during the 1860s, the California State Legislature reconsidered whether building the capitol in a flood-prone region was advisable. In 01/1868, for example, the State Legislature's House Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds was "...hereby instructed to examine into the condition of the State Capitol building...and into the manner of its construction, and everything relative thereto, the expenditure and the probable cost for its completion." The committee also was empowered to consider "the probable costs to secure the same against the overflow of the American and Sacramento rivers, and the costs of grading the ground around the Capitol building. Also into the costs of ventilating and lighting the building after its completion...." Not only did the committee receive permission to review the progress of the Capitol #6, but it expanded its mandate so that the "Committee be...instructed to inquire into the condition of all of other State buildings...." (See "The Capitol Building," Sacramento Daily Union, vol. 34, no. 238, 01/11/1868, p. 1.) While alternative locations were raised by representatives from other parts of the state, the state pushed on with construction of the Sacramento capitol, going to the extent of raising the capitol's foundation level. The State of CA web site on the Capitol Building #6 stated: "Construction crews hauled wheelbarrows of dirt to raise the building's ground line by six feet to protect against future flooding problems." (See California State Capitol Museum, "California State Capitol History Part II: Construction," accessed 09/08/2016.)

On top of all of his other problems, architect Clark also had to contend with thieves stealing portions of the building. In 1863, the Sacramento Daily Union reported: "Recently several faucets and a quantity of lead pipe have been cut loose and stolen from the new Capitol grounds. A few evenings since, R. Clark, the architect, arrested a man who was evidently on the ground for purposes of theft, but as there was no proof of his having stolen anything, he released him again. Yesterday Officer Burke and Special Officer Duke visited a junk shop in the eastern part of the city on K street. They found a quantity of lead pipe chopped up into short pieces, but it could not be identified as that for which they were searching." (See "Lead Pipe," Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 24, Number 3704, 02/04/1863, p. 3.)

If Clark didn't have enough problems, the local chapter of the Union League of America did not take kindly to alleged comments made by the architect about the election of President Lincoln or his penchant for hiring pro-Confederate workers. All of these problems on site probably contributed to his nervous collapse and rapid death which happened at the Insane Asylum of the State of California in Stockton in 1866.

Building Notes

As noted by the California State Capitol Museum, architect Reuben Clark used two types of granite for the building's exterior, one quarried near Folsom, CA, and the other mined near Penryn, CA. Clark rejected the first stone as being too hard to cut into blocks. He was said to have criticized it for being "...of bad rift, with black knots, and by reason has caused us much expense." (See California State Capitol, "A Tale of Two Stones," accessed 12/11/2018.)

The selection of granite was also complicated by the competing interests of two railroads responsible for transporting the stone to Sacramento. The Folsom stone was carried by the Sacramento Valley Railroad, while the Penryn stone was transported by the Central Pacific Railroad. The Central Pacific wanted this contract and made several deals with the state to insure that its stone was used. The Penryn stone cost about 1/2 of that of Folsom, and the Central Pacific offered free shipping and donated the quarry to the state. The CA State Capitol Museum stated: "Only half of the Capitol's first story had been constructed [by 11/1864]. Three months later the first load of granite arrived from the Penryn quarry, and work began again on the first story." (See California State Capitol, "A Tale of Two Stones," accessed 12/11/2018.)


Architect Raymond Girvigian worked on a renovation of the California State Capitol #6 during the 1970s.

California Historical Landmark (1974): 872

National Register of Historic Places (1974-04-03): 73000427 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 17306