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Up The Road: Where To Now? Major Sacramento Museums

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Nathan Hughes Hamilton
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Flickr
Crocker Art Museum’s original building, once a family mansion.

Tour the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park at 800 N Street to take in its award-winning restoration. Remember the transcontinental railroad’s “Big Four”? This eclectic mansion represents the local legacy of one of them—Governor Leland Stanford, who also founded Stanford University. And who soon transformed this two-story home into the de facto state capitol.

With his wealth, Stanford grew the building from 4,000 to 19,000 square feet. Starting with hoisting it off the ground to build a new first floor and grand stairway beneath it—the added entry well above winter floodwaters. (Stanford traveled to his 1862 inauguration, during the Great Flood, in a rowboat.)

A new mansard roof created the fourth floor. Both state and national historic landmark, and event center for visiting foreign dignitaries, the Stanford Mansion is decked out in original decor. Take the tour for the whole story.

Almost due west is the Crocker Art Museum, 216 O Street, the oldest public art museum in the West, more Big-Four family legacy. The original 1869 building, bought by E.B. Crocker, Charles “Big Four” Crocker’s brother, is itself a work of art—High Italianate art, with twin curving stairways, ornate painted plaster, elaborate woodwork, and inlaid polychromed tile floors.

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Ray Bouk
Leland Stanford Mansion.

The Crocker family’s collection of 19th-century European paintings and drawings has been plumped up over the years with Victorian decorative arts, Asian ceramics, and California landscapes and photography.

In late 1995, Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud gave 68 original works to the Crocker. But even with multiple expansions, the Crocker can exhibit only part of its collection, alongside traveling shows. Cultural events are big too.

The California Automobile Museum, 2200 Front Street (at V), was originally the Towe (rhymes with “cow”) Ford Museum, a fabulous collection largely auctioned off in 1997, car by car, to satisfy the IRS. But for classic car fans the museum is still fine, the story of California’s love affair with cars. Check the website for what’s up.

Visit the California State Indian Museum, 2618 K Street, while enjoying East Sac and its eateries and shops. And take your time. Exhibits and artifacts were curated by community elders to chronicle the material, social, and spiritual development of Native California culture. The astonishing basketry here connects all three.

Contribute, if you can, to the matching-funds campaign for the California Indian Heritage Center, a new museum, taking shape after decades of planning. The 51-acre collaboration, to be built in West Sacramento along the river, will feature interpretive exhibits, cultural collections, public art space, an interpretive trail, and much more.

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Glenn Gould
Crocker Art Museum gallery.

Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park at 2701 L Street (enter from the big gates on 28th) was the valley’s first nonnative settlement.

Among travelers who shared Sutter’s farm hospitality, before the gold rush changed everything, were rescued survivors of the ill-fated Donner Party.

Until next time, when we visit the city cemetery, this is Kim Weir for Up the Road.

Up the Road Encourages Responsible, Safe Travel

Here are previous Up the Road episodes that explore why we should travel, how to do it responsibly, and how to travel responsibly now, in the shadow of COVID-19. Not everyone should be traveling now, of course. But everyone who does travel needs to do so responsibly, to prevent viral spread. Take a listen:

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Kim Weir, a former NSPR news reporter, is editor and founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the Northern California story. She is also an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers. North State Public Radio’s Up the Road program is jointly produced by Up the Road.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.