No high resolution image exists...
Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Location: Historic City Hall, 2nd Floor Hearing Room, 915 I Street
On Tuesday, March 31, the city of Sacramento invites downtown property owners and community members to a Public Workshop to find out about the Raised Streets-Hollow Sidewalks Historic Survey. Join the Public Workshop, learn about the survey and ask questions.
This survey, funded by a local nonprofit and a matching state grant, is intended to document all of the surviving "Underground Sidewalk" spaces in downtown Sacramento.
In the 1860s and 1870s, Sacramento's Board of Trustees undertook a project to raise downtown Sacramento's streets above flood levels by building brick walls at the edges of the downtown streets and filling those walls with dirt. This resulted in streets as much as 12 feet higher than their original level. Building owners either used teams of screw jacks to elevate their building to the new street level or simply made their second floor into the new ground floor. Because the building owners were responsible for the space between their building and the street, most built brick vaults over the sidewalk area, leaving the old sidewalk as a covered but accessible underground space. Most of the street raising was done between approximately I and L Street, from Front Street along the river to 12th Street to the east.
Over the intervening 130 years of development, new construction and redevelopment destroyed or damaged much of the original underground sidewalk areas, to the point where only a handful remain. This survey will document surviving remnants and research the methods used to build these structures. The survey will have many potential uses, possibly including the creation of a historic district, or facilitating an "Underground Sidewalks Tour" program similar to that found in Seattle and other cities. For those interested in learning more about the survey, the methods used, or those who hope to take a peek inside the history of Sacramento, this public workshop should be very interesting.
Sacramento's underground sidewalks have become the subject of local legend, and there are many myths associated with them. Most bear little resemblance to reality, but excite the imagination. They even appear in works of historical fiction, like James D. Houston’s Bird of Another Heaven:
"Soon another man spoke, his voice soft, almost a whisper. “I have heard of tunnels,” he said, “underneath the city of Sacramento and they are lined with the doors and windows of buildings, built there many years ago. I have not seen this, but I know a fisherman who is part white and part Indian. He was down there when he used to clean the streets. He tells me there is a city underneath a city, with streets and alleyways, built before the great flood, and dark as tunnels now. Anyone who died in the floods, this is where their spirits go.”
Hopefully, this survey will help us more fully comprehend a well-known but little-understood aspect of Sacramento history.