The California State Capitol Building in Sacramento is a blend of many architectural styles— Roman, Renaissance Revival, Neo-classical, and some that are unique to the region. Since the Golden State was the 31st state to join the Union, the design of its capitol was influenced by various styles used in public buildings that preceded it. What’s unique about this capitol, though, is that on the top of its dome is a gold ball, reminiscent of a gold nugget, which honors California’s Gold Rush heritage. In 1860, the legislature set aside $500,000 to build this capitol, and a local architect named Reuben Clark drew the original plans. When it was finally finished in 1874, the total cost was about $2.45 million. Today that would be more than $46,000,000! Whether you take a formal guided tour, or just wander the north and south wings on your own, it’ll be an hour or two well spent.
Although a rotunda is a standard feature of nearly every state capitol in the USA, the California State Capitol Rotunda is by no means common. Most of the decorations here are those related to California’s state symbols— especially grizzly bears and the Roman goddess Minerva who is featured on the Great Seal of California. The focal point of the rotunda is a massive statue made of Carrara marble. Larger than life size, the “Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella” statue has rested in the center of this room since 1883. While admiring the statue, also look UP. Rising nearly 100 feet from a circular walk on the second floor is a stunning oculus—a large window located at the apex of the dome.
As you explore the building, prepare to be impressed by the endless art collection which includes governors’ portraits, paintings, statues, murals, tile work, historic flags, and more. Also spend some time strolling the 40-acre Capitol Park. The surrounding landscaping includes hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, and flowers. More than one million people come to the park each year to visit its memorials and monuments, and to enjoy the World Peace Rose Garden.
If You Go to the California State Capitol Museum:
California State Capitol
1315 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 324-0333
Guided tours are conducted daily on the hour from 9 am to 4 pm, or you can wander the building and grounds on your own.
weekdays 8 am – 5 pm; weekends 9 am – 5 pm.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
Security measures are in effect. At a minimum, expect to pass through a metal detector when entering the Capitol. Bags and packages will be x-rayed.
Metered parking is located on all sides of the Capitol Building and surrounding areas, or choose a parking garage on 10th and L Streets (daily and hourly rates).