on May 21, 2007
One of the benefits – at least for impatient travelers – of the spectacular growth of many cities in the last century is that attractions that were once outside their limits had been swallowed and are nowadays easily reached with the metropolitan mass transport system or even by foot. The results of the swallowing are always unpredictable and can limit on the ridiculous. In Sacramento it resulted in placing a fort aimed to defend the town from external attacks very close to downtown and in its being surrounded by commercial and residential areas. Actual attackers and defenders would have an excruciatingly hard time finding each other; unless they would agree to meet at Westfields’ Starbucks for a round of negotiations over a cappuccino.However, my rush stopover in Sacramento wouldn’t have been complete without a visit there. John Sutter - a Swiss immigrant – received in 1839 a land grant in the Sacramento Valley from the Mexican government. He created an agricultural settlement called New Helvetia (New Switzerland). The central building – The Fort –walls were 2.5 feet thick and 15 to 18 feet high and from there Sutter controlled more than 150,000 acres of the Central Valley, where he developed what he considered to be the real wealth of California: grapes, wheat, and cattle. A carpenter working for Sutter, James Marshall, discovered gold at the sawmill Sutter was having built in Coloma, on the American River, in 1848. Before the mill could be finished, Sutter's workers deserted the Fort for the goldfields seeking their fortunes. Soon, all that was left of Sutter's Fort was the central building. The fort has been restored to its former state based on an 1847 map and is open daily for tours. The only modern additions to the original fort are a Trade Store – where gifts and publications related to the Gold Rush and the Overland Trail are sold – and the Wi-Fi Service – for those unable to disconnect.The Fort restoration was began in 1891 and was completed in 1893, by the Native Sons of the Golden West. It was donated to the State of California, and became a part of the California State Park System in 1947. It is the oldest restored Fort in the United States. Daily from 10am to 5pm.
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