Growing up as a child in Malaysia, I often watched westerns on TV, with rugged, gun-toting cowboys, rowdy salon bars, and horse-drawn carriages. After two weeks in the US, I got my first taste of the American West on a one-day trip to the city of Sacramento.
Okay, so there were no gunfights in the middle of a dusty street, nor were there bar brawls. Instead, we learnt about the Californian Gold Rush and the rich legacy it left behind.
Old Sacramento, or Old Sac as the locals call it, is a historic part of town that looks like it came straight out of a movie set. Founded in the 19th century, it sits next to the River Sacramento. It was a bustling town during its heyday, with a railroad service running through it, courier service, post office, hotels, printing press, theatre, school and various businesses.
The architecture reflects Sacramento’s diverse roots; from its early Spanish and Mexican settlers and which brought about building characteristics similar to those found in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Spain. Expect uniform, close-fitted windows, wide arched doors and short balconies.
Since it was developed into an attraction in the 1960s, many restaurants, souvenir shops and other bric-a-brac outlets have opened to cater to tourists. Most have adopted large wooden signage with old font to suit the American West theme.
Old Sacramento isn’t very big, but its not small either. Visitors can opt to drive here where there’s ample parking space. The only annoyance is that there is a set limit of two hours, so we had to constantly re-park the vehicle somewhere else. There are carriage rides available for a fee, if you’re into the tourist thing. If you hate walking, bike rentals are also available.
There is a Wells Fargo museum with a recreated 19th century office. Aside from being an important part of the city’s trade, they also catered to the Pony Express service. Riders would spend days galloping across the route with mail in their saddlebags.
The main square in town is now a parking lot. The lot is much lower than ground level, but it was actually Old Sacramento’s original height.
The problem with having your city next to a fertile river is the constant flooding, so the residents of Old Sacramento piled earth upon earth, brick by brick, to raise all the buildings to the height we see them today. The power of human resilience and ingenuity never fails to impress me.
Schoolkids going for an excursion.
Imagine a time when ladies in fluffy skirts paraded through the streets under their parasols, while carriages trundled down the roads and men went about their daily errands. It was a very different time; a different universe for someone in the modern world. Would have been interesting to time-travel and see how it was back then.
Old Sacramento’s first and only theatre, the Eagle Theatre is a simple, whitewashed wooden structure. This is where the populace enjoyed entertainment in their free time.
A small grotto in the middle of two buildings. There were remnants of columns and random bricks and pieces of wood scattered around. The grotto was much lower than the buildings next to it, as this was the original level of Old Sac.
Next to the river are a dozen eateries and remnants of the railroad which used to run through town. There is an actual (non-functioning) train car as well as a dock for boats.
More of Sacramento to come!
Getting There /details at http://oldsacramento.com/