Monday, December 15, 2008

Sacramento History Photo of the Week: Issue No. 1

Starting this week, we will be bringing to you historic photos from Sacramento's historic past that either come from the Sacramento Public Library's Sacramento Room collection or can be accessed through any of our many city/county branches. Along with the photo itself, we hope to provide thoughtful description and discussion on the photo's content and context. Here's today's photo, coming to us from the Library of Congress:

This is a rare, rare photo of China Slough, aka Sutter Slough or most elegantly Sutter Lake, circa 1866. Depending on the extent of seasonal flooding (and it's very high in this photo), the slough lapped upon the western-most boundary of Alkali Flat at 6th or 7th Streets. The oils and solvents of Southern Pacific/Central Pacific Railroad, not to mention the sewage and garbage of the residential community along lower “I,” made the slough both unpleasant to look at and notoriously odorous, prompting the City to plant some 3,000 eucalyptus trees along its banks in 1876/77.

The slough was finally filled in 1910 as part a deal between Southern Pacific and the City: the railroad fills the slough, it gets the land. This view from the Pioneer Flour Mills (located on the eastern bank of the Sacrament River) looks east toward Alkali Flat; the white structure near the upper, left-hand section of the photo is the Ohio Brewery, the spire in the middle, upper section of the photo is the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the far-right structure is the Grace Church.

What had sat as a pristine inlet of the Sacramento River as late as 1849 had, in a short 15 years, become something that most Sacramentans just wanted to forget about. Amazingly enough, as I look out the 5th floor window at Central Library, I'm not sure I feel too differently as I look at the big SP sandbox to the northwest.

The persistent url for the photo is as follows:

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