BENICIA — Benicia once served as California’s capital and it has an impressive building to prove it.
California in the early years kept its capital on the move and looking for a permanent home. Benicia got its audition in 1853 after state legislators fled Vallejo. Lawmakers took over the Benicia City Hall, with its Doric columns and appearance of a Greek temple.
“So Benicia, the memorable ‘city of the Straits,’ ‘the rival emporium of the Pacific wealth and commerce,’ is to be vested with new dignities . . . ” the Feb. 5, 1853, Daily Alta Californian reported.
Legislator returned in 1854, then decided to leave Benicia for Sacramento. They found Benicia to be too much of a small town, without enough hotels.
Benicia may not have the state capital, but it has Benicia Capitol State Park. Visitors can go to that same building where state business once was conducted for a brief time.
History fans can also visit the Benicia Arsenal, built in 1849 as an ordnance supply depot. William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant spent time there prior to going on to Civil War fame. Sherman became an admirer of the town, declaring it to have a superior location for a commercial city than San Francisco.
But Benicia is a whole lot more than history. It has a downtown with a waterfront along the Carquinez Strait with a variety of businesses. It has Benicia State Recreation Area, which fronts Southhampton Bay and features hiking and fishing opportunities and a native plant garden.
Benicia also has an industrial park on its northern side, with the deepwater Port of Benicia. A major industry is the sprawling Valero refinery.
Benicia’s name ended up being the second choice. Founder Robert Semple in 1847 wanted to call his town Francisca after Gen. Mariano Vallejo’s wife. Then Yerba Buena changed its name to San Francisco and Semple noted that Francisca’s full name was Francisca Maria Felipa Benicia Carrillo de Vallejo. He took the name “Benicia” for his town.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.
Number of hotels/motels: 3
Number of rooms: 161
Contact: Benicia Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, 707-745-2120, www.beniciachamber.com