The Sacramento History Museum is a reproduction of the 1854 City Hall and Waterworks building, which sat on our current site. The original building was completed in the spring of 1854 and was the city’s first municipal structure. It housed the City Waterworks, City Offices – including the Mayor’s office and Fire Department – the City Jail, and Police Court.
The original “fire proof” brick building housed the city’s water supply in rooftop water tanks and suffered from structural issues due to the extreme weight of the tanks. The failing building was soon converted into the city prison.
By 1870, the transcontinental railroad was in full swing, with Sacramento serving as its western terminus. The location of the City Waterworks building – so close to the new tracks! – forced the railroad’s main line to curve sharply around it. The constant vibration generated by the trains caused more structural damage to the already failing building. By 1880, most of the city offices had been relocated and concern was growing for the safety of the police officers and prisoners left inside.
In 1912, the Waterworks building was in such a state of disrepair that the city moved its police and prisoners to a temporary jailhouse, finally condemning the Waterworks building. It was sold to and demolished by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1913.
A small portion of the old jail survived the demolition, serving as the only physical remains of the city’s very first municipal building.