The Wandering Matchett's travel blog

California State capitol


Ornate celings


Arnold's bear

Wells Fargo Museum

Old Town Sacramento

Old Town Sacramento

Purse made by inmate

Ferris wheel made of toothpicks

Main gate of Folsom


Folsom Prison

We spent three nights in Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento so that we could visit the California capitol building. Sacramento has been the state capital since California became a state, but the legislature took up temporary residence in San Francisco for about four months in 1862 when Sacramento flooded. There have been three different capitol buildings in the state's history. The current building was completed in 1874. We took a guided tour of the building. As you would expect for California, there are gold accents everywhere. The legislature was not in session at the time. The portraits of the governors were very interesting. Each governor chooses his own artist to paint the portrait. Jerry Brown's portrait looks much like a cartoon. Our tour ended outside of the governor's office where there is a waist-high bronze statue of a bear, supposedly representative of the bear on the state flag. The bear was brought to the state capitol by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He bought it with his own money at an Aspen, Colorado art store and left it at the capitol when he left office. The observant person, however, will note that the bear on the flag is a grizzly and (as pointed out by our tour guide), the bronze bear is a statue of a brown bear. Compare for yourself, they are different.

While in Sacramento, we went to Old Town Sacramento. In this area of town, the old buildings remain, the streets are still made of cobblestone, and there are still wooden sidewalks. The architecture was interesting to look at, unfortunately, the buildings are full of tourist-y shops of all sorts. One one corner was a very small Wells Fargo Museum, consisting of less than ten displays.

When we found out that Folsom Prison is located in a small town near Sacramento, we thought, hmm...tour? So, we checked it out. Sadly, no tours of the prison itself. But there is a really nice little museum on prison grounds. Called the Big House Prison Museum, it is run and maintained by retired prison guards. The minimal admission goes completely to cancer research. To start, we watched a video of a tour of the prison. The site chosen for the prison provided unlimited amount of native stone to build the prison and the American River formed one natural boundary of the prison site. Construction began in 1878. The cells originally did not have any heat, plumbing, or lighting. The prisoners were provided a candle which had to last 30 days. By 1895, Folsom became the first prison in the world to have electric power. It was designed to house the state's most notorious prisoners and gained a violent and bloody reputation. Today it houses medium security general population male inmates. Johnny Cash recorded a live album at Folsom in January 1968 and there is a small area of the museum dedicated to Mr. Cash. The museum contains displays of weapons made in the facility as well as other items made by inmates, including a large ferris wheel made of toothpicks. Definitely a must-see.

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