For some locals, it might be difficult to imagine a full-fledged brewery operating in the Land Park area. But long before there were such destination places as William Land Park and the Sacramento Zoo, this then-rural area was home to the Sutterville Brewery.
This brewery, which was established just south of today’s zoo in a two-story, brick building with a basement in 1861, was originally owned by the Prussia-born Martin P. Arenz (1826-1949).
The brewery structure, which was constructed 160 years ago in what was then the town of Sutterville, was initially occupied by a grocery store owned Robert H. Vance of San Francisco.
Arenz purchased both the building and its property from Vance for $1,500 in August 1861.
According to The Sacramento Union, in its June 15, 1872 edition, the brewery building measured 62 feet by 62 feet and stood on a 160-foot by 180-foot lot.
Among the improvements made to the premises during Arenz’s ownership of the brewery was an addition of a new roof.
On May 28, 1867, the Sutterville Brewery was among several local breweries that had their lager beer delivery wagons seized by revenue officers during their deliveries.
According to the following day’s edition of The Union, it was charged that these breweries “did not properly cancel the stamps in the manner required by the revenue law, but so contrived matters as to make one (revenue) stamp answer the purpose of many, thereby depriving Uncle Sam of his just and lawful dues.”
Arenz remained the brewery’s proprietor until September 1868, when he sold the business to Patrick H. Lyman for about $8,000.
A biography regarding Captain Frank Ruhstaller in the 1890 book, “An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California,” recognizes Ruhstaller and Joseph Bechler as having owned interests in the brewery.
And in following the sequence of events presented in the book, Ruhstaller purchased an interest in the brewery in mid-October 1869.
The book also notes that Ruhstaller “was in a partnership there (at the Sutterville Brewery) with Bechler for seven or eight months.”
Another biography about Ruhstaller in the 1913 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” mentions the following: “(Ruhstaller) bought an interest in the Sutterville Brewery, where he carried on a partnership with Joseph Bechler for seven months until the high water forced all work to cease.”
Both biographies mention that Ruhstaller continued working with local breweries before returning to his Swiss homeland for a short period of time in 1873.
No other historic accounts regarding Ruhstaller and Bechler holding interests in the Sutterville Brewery were discovered during research for this article, and there is no firm indication, based on research for this article, that Lyman was not involved in the ownership of the business from 1868 until the sale of the business in 1873.
A fire occurred at the brewery on Jan. 27, 1871. Flames were spotted on the roof of the drying room in the malt house.
The Union, in its Jan. 30, 1871 edition, noted: “Part of the Sutterville Brewery was discovered on fire, but which, by dint of strenuous efforts of the proprietor, Patrick Lyman, and his neighbors, was extinguished before much damage had occurred.”
In 1873, Fritz Futterer and Nicholas “Nick” Thielen became the new proprietors of the brewery.
In regard to this new ownership, The Union, on July 12, 1873, ran the following advertisement: “READ THIS! SUTTERVILLE BREWERY. This well-known brewery was purchased a few months ago by the undersigned, two experienced German brewers, and many improvements added thereto, and they are now able to supply the old customers, as well as new ones, and their friends generally, with the very best of beer in this market, in quantities to suit. THIELEN & FUTTERER.”
This partnership continued until February 1877, when Futterer sold his interest in the brewery to Thielen.
But well before this business change, half of the ownership of the brewery was offered for sale through an advertisement in editions of The Union in April and May 1876.
In part, the advertisement read: “One-half interest in the SUTTERVILLE BREWERY, finely improved and a well established business. Will be sold cheap. For full information, inquire of NICK THIELEN.”
Various non-brewery meetings were held at the brewery, including an April 25, 1878 meeting of residents of Swamp Land District No. 1. The purpose of the meeting was to make nominations for levee commissioner.
In being that a portion of Sacramento, including part of that district, experienced a major flood in 1878, several other very timely, levee-related meetings were held at the brewery around that time.
The 1880 book, History of Sacramento County, California, refers to the brewery, as follows: “This brewery is eighty-two feet long by forty-two feet wide (which are different dimensions than those given in the aforementioned 1872 Union article); employs four men, and has a capacity of fifteen barrels per day. Nicholas Thielen is the proprietor.”
The Union, in its Oct. 17, 1883 edition, reported the following: “Saturday evening (Oct. 13, 1883), a large party of ladies and gentlemen from Sacramento gave a surprise party to Nicholas Thielen, proprietor of the Sutterville Brewery. They were finely entertained. There was dancing and feasting until near morning.”
The operation of the Sutterville Brewery was only about a 22-year venture.
From Nov. 12 through Dec. 31, 1883, The Union ran the following advertisement: “FOR SALE – ON ACCOUNT OF THE removal of the brewery business of the Sutterville Brewery, the buildings and property of same are offered for sale on reasonable terms. Inquire of N. THIELEN, proprietor, or of CADWALADER & PARSONS.”
Nearly four months later, The Union, reported details regarding an auction, as follows: “REAL ESTATE AT AUCTION – Bell & Co. will sell at auction Tuesday, March 18, (1884), on the premises, at 11 a.m., the property of N. Thielen, known as the Sutterville Brewery, and about five acres of good land connected therewith. It includes the brick and frame buildings, barns, sheds, windmill, pump, tank with capacity of 4,500 gallons; underground pipes connecting with frame and brick buildings; large lot of fruit trees and shrubbery, etc. Sale positive. Terms, 10 percent on day of sale; balance when deed is made. Buildings open for inspection until the day of sale.”
The brewery auction, which The Union noted “should receive more than ordinary attention,” was postponed until the following Saturday.
However, for some reason, the auction did not occur until July 19, 1884, when Sheriff Alfred H. Estell sold at auction the brewery property and its buildings to the Germania Building and Loan Association of 1011 4th St. for $2,200. The brewery’s machinery was not included in the sale.
A grand opening for a new business, the Sutterville Garden, owned by William Emerson at the old brewery site, was held on Saturday evening, July 14, 1884. The event, which was free to the public, included music and dancing.
The property changed hands once again in 1890 and was reopened as the Mount View House. Owned by J. P. Melchior, who had previously owned a saloon at the southeast corner of 10th and S streets at the present day site of the Old Ironsides bar, the business advertised itself as featuring “the finest wines, liquors and cigars.”
In the Jan. 27, 1899 edition of The Union, it was noted that George Gray, who resided on Riverside Road (today’s Riverside Boulevard) “is now proprietor of the old Sutterville Brewery on the lane between Sutterville and Freeport Road.”
The two-story, brick Sutterville Brewery building was demolished in 1952, and occupying the site today is the Land Park Business Center at 1250 Sutterville Road.
For some locals, it might be difficult to imagine a full-fledged brewery operating in the Land Park area. But long before there were such destination places as William Land Park and the Sacramento Zoo, this then-rural area was home to the Sutterville Brewery.
Lace up your sneakers and prepare for a scenic tree-lined course that is perfect for walkers, runners and families. The 33rd annual ZooZoom is Sunday, April 14 from 7 a.m. until noon in William Land Park. Sponsored by Fleet Feet, the event will include a 5K walk/run, 10K run or kids’ fun runs. The unique race ends at the back of the Zoo where all participants enjoy cooling down and rehydrate inside the Zoo by the flamingos on the lake.
For 33 years, ZooZoom has been a favorite of area runners, walkers and their families. Kids ages 3 to 12 can participate in the Saucony “Run for Good” fun runs; from the 220 yard dash to the one–mile run, there is an event for every age group. With support from Saucony, Fleet Feet will award grants to schools that have the greatest number of participants and the highest percentage of kids entering the event.
For registration and information, visit www.sacramentozoozoom.com. Participation includes a ZooZoom t-shirt, refreshments for runners and free admission to the Zoo on race day for the runners and their immediate family (limit four people). All proceeds from the event benefit the Sacramento Zoological Society. Bring your entire family to ZooZoom!
If you go:
What: 33rd annual ZooZoom 5K/10K run and kids’ fun run
Where: Sacramento Zoo, 3930 West Land Park Drive in William Land Park.
When: Sunday, April 14, from 7 a.m. to noon.
Why: To raise funds for the Sacramento Zoological Society while enjoying scenic William Land Park.
Note: This is part three in a series regarding past and present details about the Sacramento Zoo.
As referred to in the last article of this series, the Sacramento Zoo has experienced many changes throughout the years.
The zoo became a much different looking place in the 1960s.
On July 26, 1960, The Sacramento Bee presented a proposed layout of the zoo under a major modernization and expansion project that had been then-recently approved by the city council.
The 21 sections shown on the illustrated layout were birds, aquatic birds, seals, small animals, otter, orangutan and gorilla, monkeys, gibbons, chimpanzee, open air grottos for tigers, lions and bears, cat cages, monkey island, field animals, alligators, reptile house, penguins, flamingos and non-flying tropical birds, bird house, entrance and concessions and new rose garden.
The initial phase of the zoo’s building project included the entrance structure and concessions building, a flamingo pond, five moat enclosed animal confinement areas and new animal cages.
The project’s second phase, which would be completed at a cost of about $90,000, included confinement areas for penguins and alligators and cages for monkeys, gorillas, reptiles and small animals.
Prior to the 1960-61 project, many animals were housed in wooden cages that had been constructed by Works Progress Administration laborers during the Depression.
Assisting with the reptile house, which would exhibit the zoo’s first snakes, was Kenneth C. Johnson.
In addition to serving as the director of the Sacramento Civil Defense Area, Johnson was one of the region’s most notable reptile experts and owned one of Northern California’s most extensive private collections of snakes.
The monkey island exhibit, which would be constructed by John F. Otto, Inc. (today’s Otto Construction), would allow zoo visitors to obtain a full view of its monkeys.
Among the monkeys that were transferred to monkey island upon its completion was Spooky, who had been a resident of the zoo since its opening in 1927.
In an update about the project, The Bee reported on Aug. 7, 1960 that $200,000 had been allocated by the city, while an additional $100,000 in contributions was being sought from the public. The latter sum would be used to modernize the old portion of the zoo.
It was also mentioned in the same Bee article that Emil A. Bahnfleth, president of the Sacramento Zoological Society at that time, announced that individuals donating $100 or more would have their names placed on special donors plaques at the zoo’s entrance.
Anyone donating $5 to $99 would receive an Honorary Z-B (“Zoo Builder”) certificate.
As for Bahnfleth, whose name was later memorialized through the naming of Emil Bahnfleth Park at 950 Seamas Ave., he never witnessed the opening of the expanded zoo, as he died at the age of 70 on March 30, 1961.
With the new, spacious zoo only two months away from the completion of its initial phase, The Sacramento Union, on April 9, 1961, ran an article, which included the following words: “The sumptuous new quarters are designed with an eye to convenience and animal comfort, and are a combination of sweeping, curved architectural lines, sharp, straight lines and blended landscaping that brings the creatures virtually into their natural setting and provides zoo visitors with a walk through the park.”
The article also noted that the society’s campaign to raise $100,000 had reached the $41,000 mark.
While anticipating the opening of the newly improved zoo, which was designed by architect Douglas M. Kelt, the zoo’s superintendent, Anthony A. “Hank” Spencer said, “People don’t know what this means to me. I’m the kind of guy who is lucky enough to have his hobby and his work all wrapped up in one job. And think what it will mean to the animals. Oh, it’s a wonderful thing.”
In preparation for its reopening, the zoo was closed for the 10 days prior to its June 11, 1961 dedication, which would be directed by the city and the zoological society.
During that time, the animals were moved to their new locations.
The reopening of the zoo was a grand occasion that drew thousands of people, including special guests, state Senator Albert S. Rodda; Assemblymen W. A. “Jimmie” Hicks and Edwin L. Z’berg; Leslie E. Wood, chairman of the county board of supervisors; Milton Schwartz, chairman of the city board of education; Maj. Gen. Robert B. Landry, commander of the Sacramento Air Materiel Area at McClellan Air Force Base; Brig. Gen. Norman Callish, commander of Mather Air Force Base; and Col. Leo Tamamian of the Sacramento Signal Depot (later renamed the Sacramento Army Depot).
To present more people with the opportunity to visit the zoo during its reopening week and to bring awareness to the $100,000 Zoo Builders campaign, Mayor James B. McKinney proclaimed the week as Zoo Builders Week, and the zoo maintained longer hours, as it remained open until 7 p.m.
Later changes for the zoo during the 1960s included the redesigning and rearranging of animal enclosures.
A new master plan for continued improvements and another expansion of the zoo was approved by the city council on July 9, 1970. The master plan was the first of its kind in the zoo’s then-43-year-history.
A month later, the Sacramento Zoological Society adopted its docent program. The program has since grown to include about 1,400 volunteers, who donate about 34,000 hours of their time to the zoo each year.
In September 1971, the zoo experienced a major change, as William “Bill” Meeker replaced Spencer as the zoo’s superintendent.
Four years later, the zoo received accreditation by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums – today’s Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The zoo became a participant in the International Species Inventory System in 1979. The mission of ISIS is “to facilitate international collaboration in the collection and sharing of knowledge on animals and their environments for zoos, aquariums and related conservation organizations to serve institutional, regional and global animal management and conservation goals.”
The first ZooZoom, the zoo’s annual 5k and 10k run fundraiser, was held at William Land Park in October 1980. This year, the event will be held at the park on April 14.
Other events that have attracted visitors to the zoo during its history include the California Celebration multicultural day (May), the King of Feasts food and wine luau (June), Zoo Camp (June through August), the “Boo at the Zoo” Halloween event (October) and Holiday Magic (December).
Another highlight of the zoo occurred in 1983, when the zoo became involved with AAZPA’s Species Survival Plan for Siberian tigers, Asian lions and Sumatran orangutans.
In 1987, the zoo celebrated its 60th anniversary and zoo guests, 60 years old or older, were admitted into the zoo free of charge for the entire month of March.
During the 1990s, the zoo opened its Lake Victoria exhibit, Rare Feline Center, gift shop and office space structure and concessions and conference facility.
It was also in the 1990s when the Sacramento Zoological Society assumed complete financial and daily operational management of the zoo.
Zoo highlights of this new century have included the opening of the on-site Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital and the Red Panda Forest, Australian Outback and Tall Wonders giraffe exhibits, the debut of the Conservation Carousel, and the zoo’s first Sumatran tiger birth.
In its 85th year, the now 14.3-acre zoo continues to serve its visitors through its mission to “(inspire) appreciation, respect and a connection with wildlife and nature through education, recreation and conservation.”
Sacramento became a city built upon a city through extensive mid-19th century street raising project
Editor’s Note: This is part six in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.
Within a quarter century of its founding, flooding had become the bane of Sacramento. It was a city born out of convenience rather than vision.
From 1839 to 1849, the area was known as “Sutter’s Embarcadero.”
According to local historian Barbara Lagomarsino’s essay, entitled “Sacramento on the Rise,” “A man named McVickar proposed around this time (1848) to build a grogshop right on the river bank – but in the limbs of a sycamore tree, about twenty feet up” and that “access was to be by ladder or canoe, whichever circumstances preferred.”
Sacramento City, as Sacramento was known during its earliest years, was founded by John A. Sutter, Jr., who despite his father’s wishes, established the town at the confluence of the two rivers, instead of on higher ground.
The more visionary John Sutter, Sr. had already planned a city, complete with engineered docks and canals in the more appropriate location of the current William Land Park area.
But the selected location of Sacramento City offered a sandbar that precluded the need for docks and piers. It also left the new city vulnerable to seasonal inundations.
The building of levees, the filling of creeks and the rechanneling of watercourses only set the stage for one of the most ambitious flood control efforts ever attempted.
The indomitable city now had the indomitable task of literally raising its streets above the level of serious flooding.
This endeavor would take time, money and a cooperative effort of paramount proportions.
Since prehistoric times, humans recognized that erecting their housing upon stilts could provide protection from rising waters.
But the concept of raising a large section of the city, including businesses that required walk-up traffic, was a challenge of unparalleled proportions.
The project began simply enough as businesses raised their buildings to protect their valuable merchandise.
The problem then became that a city built upon banks of mud was without sidewalks. And customers, during the muddy winter months and the searing heat of summer, had to trudge up flights of stairs just to reach entrances.
A solution was required that could accommodate customers and protect inventory and citizens from floods.
Stilts solved the problem of protecting the businesses from floods, but one still required a boat to go shopping during the rainy seasons.
The stilts were an insipient beginning, but the ultimate salvation was found in raising the city streets as much as about 15 feet and abandoning the first floor entrances in the business district.
Essentially, Sacramento was to become a city built upon a city.
In addition to stilts, in the 1850s, some street levels were modestly and independently raised on a business to business basis.
But it took the flood of 1861-62 for the citizenry to come to the conclusion that a massive street raising, fortification of buildings and a reconstruction of the sewer system was necessary.
The optimum level to which the streets would have to be raised for protection from flooding equal to the great flood of 1861-62 was referred to as “high grade.” This level varied from a few feet on the edges of the flood prone area to as much as 15 feet in the central business district.
According to an article, entitled “The Uptown Underground,” in the February 1998 issue of Comstock’s magazine, a March 18, 1862 vote determined that the grade level of J Street would be raised two feet above the high-water mark. The motion passed with only two dissenting votes.
And in Lagomarsino’s aforementioned article, she wrote: “Finally, in February 1863, the supervisors passed an ordinance establishing the official street grades of Sacramento’s business district well above all previous high-water marks. This monumental endeavor required a public/private cooperative effort of unprecedented magnitude for the young city.”
In the July 18, 1969 edition of The Sacramento Union, historian Ted Baggelman, in an article regarding the development of the K Street Mall, referred to the 1860s cooperative effort, as follows: “The city pledged to fill in between the bulkheads to the necessary level, pave the street, and construct curbs. The merchants obligated themselves to pay the construction costs for the portion of the eight foot bulkhead in front of his establishment, and bear the costs of raising or altering his building and restoring the sidewalk at the new street level.”
The impact and effect of raising the city’s streets was much more complex than simply hauling in soil and tamping it. It became a complex integration of altering buildings and the water and sewer systems, paving streets, and building sidewalks.
On Jan. 1, 1867, The Union published an article regarding this redevelopment.
It was noted in the article that some streets “have been raised to the ‘high grade’ on the level with the embankments on the waterfront, which necessitates building of bulkheads and raising or reconstructing buildings; and in many cases old buildings have been torn down and new ones built to correspond with the improvements around them.”
The article also mentioned that “the Pacific Railroad Company have (sic) also entered upon the work of filling up Sutter Slough, north of I Street, and grading the ground from First Street to Sixth (Street), for the purpose of erecting thereon buildings for machine shops, car manufactories, etc.” These are the same buildings in the “railyards” area that the city and state are preserving and developing as part of the California State Railroad Museum.
Building owners were forced to decide whether their structures were worth saving or how they could be adapted.
Baggelman considered the owners’ consternation, as he wrote: “Pity the poor merchant who had to move his store up to the second floor, which then became the first floor; or worse yet, the property owner who decided to have his building raised (to the new level), which, at one inch a day took four months to reach the required eight feet.”
An apparatus known as a “jackscrew” was the preferred method of raising buildings, and it was not always an easy or successful endeavor.
In Lagomarsino’s article, she mentioned a raised tenement structure that was on jackscrews in the Chinese section of town, and notes that it collapsed during high winds in 1864.
She also referred to an annex of the Union Hotel, which was located on 2nd Street, between J and K streets, as follows: “(The annex was) perched on dozens of jackscrews, eight feet above the ground, waiting for a new foundation. Before that could be supplied, however, in the middle of the night, most of the building collapsed, leaving a jumble of furniture, bricks and fixtures piled around the jackscrews.”
Fortunately, most of the buildings were raised without incident; although, the process could be expensive when performed by professionals.
The Sacramento Zoo is supporting field conservation projects with the Quarters for Conservation program. Through the collection of quarters, the Zoo provides funding for wildlife conservation projects both locally and around the globe. Members and visitors are part of this exciting contribution to wildlife conservation.
As guests enter the Zoo they receive a token representing a contribution to conservation. The token enables guests to vote for a conservation project of their choice–the vote helps the Zoo determine how much funding each project receives. Guests have an opportunity to learn more about the projects and cast votes at the Zoo’s Entry Plaza. Each project is guaranteed $5,000 annually with additional funding based on the number of votes each project receives.
In 2012, the first year of the Quarters for Conservation, the Zoo was able to provide funding for the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society, Mabula Ground Hornbill Conservation Project and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. During 2013, visitors will be able to cast their vote for the Riparian Brush Rabbit Recovery Program, Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project and the Masai Giraffe Conservation Project.
Snow Leopards, who are native to small areas in central Asia, are very elusive and rarely sighted in the wild. They are not fast runners and so they rely on stealth and their great rock climbing abilities to evade predators and catch prey. They are a medium sized cat, weighing between 60 and 120 pounds. Snow leopards have many features that help them in their natural habitats. Their large paws act like snow shoes while their long, thick tails can wrap around their body and face protecting themselves from the cold wind. Their smoke-grey fur with large, dark rosettes and spots help them blend in with rocks and snow.
Researchers estimate that there are between 3,500 and 7,000 endangered snow leopards left in the wild. Because they are so elusive and solitary no one has been able to get an exact count. There are many threats facing snow leopards, including poaching and habitat loss.
While visiting the Sacramento Zoo you may notice that they now have two snow leopards. The older female, who has resided at the zoo for quite some time, recently gained a roommate. Blizzard is a young male from Canada who is full of energy. Currently he is smaller than the female, but once he reaches adulthood he will be the larger of the two.
Editor’s Note: This is part one in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.
In being a city of two rivers, Sacramento has a history that is very much tied to each of these tributaries. And, undoubtedly, the river most directly associated with the Pocket area is the Sacramento River.
The Pocket area itself is partially bordered by this river and its levee, which has received much attention lately due to the controversy surrounding a city proposal to extend public recreation access along the river.
Certainly, no event in the Pocket’s history made the area’s residents more aware of the Sacramento River’s existence than the Edward’s Break – the devastating levee break that flooded about 10,000 acres in the Riverside-Pocket area in February 1904.
The significance of the Sacramento River in the city’s history is so great that it would be impossible to present a thorough account of the city’s beginnings without referring to this river.
And by its name alone, the Sacramento River is important to the history of Sacramento, since the city took its name from this important waterway.
As the largest river in California, this 375-mile river has its source near Mount Shasta.
The river then meanders down the center of the Sacramento Valley and runs between the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento.
It continues its way into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where it is fed by other watercourses to become the Carquinez Straits and ultimately flows into the San Francisco Bay.
How the river was formed is a complex series of geological events, which include uplift and erosion of the Sierra Nevada and Coastal Mountains and the eruption and creation of Mount Shasta.
For more than 100,000 years, the Sacramento River has been cutting through deep deposits of sediment from the Coast Range and Sierra Nevada.
As previously mentioned, the city of Sacramento was named after the Sacramento River.
In 1808, the Spanish organized an expedition to go into the interior of California to explore rivers north of the Cosumnes River, which they discovered two years earlier, and to search for suitable locations for missions and pueblos.
This expedition was led by Spanish army officer Jose Gabriel Maraga, who gave names to many of the topographic features that he discovered on his journey.
At that time, the Spanish army in California was inextricably linked to the Catholic Church, thus almost all the names chosen by Maraga were taken from Catholic nomenclature.
Maraga named the largest of these tributaries El Rio de Sacramento, which translates as the River of Sacrament. The Sacramento River was thus named in honor of the “offerings of Christ.”
On Oct. 9, 1808, Maraga wrote in his diary: “Today, we broke camp and moved to the river discovered yesterday, which we named the Sacramento. They have measured this river at 169 varas (about 5,577 inches or about 465 feet) across.”
For some unknown reason, the only entry missing from Maraga’s diary, which was kept from Sept. 25 through Oct. 23, 1808, was the entry for Oct. 8 – the day that he discovered the Sacramento River.
During the following 40 years, the Sacramento River remained the quiet home of salmon, wildlife and native people of the area.
In 1848, bright, metallic flakes were found in a tributary of the Sacramento and for the river and its valley, its future changes were dramatic.
It appears as if the word, “rush” from the famous Gold Rush of 1849 has much significance in the naming and location of the city.
Furthermore, little effort was given to the naming of the city’s streets, which received basic alphabetical and numerical names.
Sacramento City was built in a “rush” with little regard for expansion or flooding.
In fact, the very sands contributed to by flooding were responsible for the location of the new city, because the sand provided a low spot for large ships to beached, loaded and unloaded.
Neither Captain John Sutter nor the Indians who lived in the area before him regarded the eventual location of the city as habitable.
Sutter, guided by the local Indians, had his fort built in one of the few high ground sites in today’s city of Sacramento.
Even the city that Sutter had planned – Sutterville – was being built on the high ground in the area of today’s William Land Park.
The problem with this location was that its high banks that prevented flooding, also kept ships from landing.
As a result, Sacramento City was born almost overnight, because it was the one spot where large vessels could land and unload supplies, feeding the frenzy of the Gold Rush.
When it comes to presenting the city’s river history, it is certainly essential to include details pertaining to the topic of flooding.
While visiting Sacramento on Feb. 25, 1878, James W. Marshall, whose discovery of gold on the South Fork of the American River led to the Gold Rush of 1849, was interviewed by a Sacramento Record-Union reporter.
In speaking to the reporter regarding the topic of high water, Marshall referred to the 1845-46 flood, which covered all the Indian mounds in the Sacramento Valley.
Marshall described this flood as being so great that it came within two feet of entering Sutter’s Fort.
And in relating the 1845-46 flood to the then present times, Marshall estimated that the water of that flood would have reached at least four or five feet above the high grade of the city.
Continuing, Marshall noted that an old Hudson Bay trapper had told him about a flood, which occurred in the Sacramento Valley in the winter of 1830.
That flood, Marshall said, reached a level of five or six feet higher than the level of the 1845-46 flood.
Within a detailed account of the flood of 1849-50 in the Feb. 8, 1873 edition of The Sacramento Union, it was noted that by Jan. 12, 1850 “there was no dry land in town except at the knoll on the public square (today’s Cesar E. Chavez Plaza), between Ninth and Tenth streets.”
Another one of the great floods in the city’s history was the flood of 1852-53.
Having already recently suffered another tragedy – the great fire of Nov. 2, 1852 – Sacramento was flooded as the result of a rise in the Sacramento River from Dec. 20, 1852 to Jan. 24, 1853.
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series. The second article in this series will feature the story of Ford’s Real Hamburgers founder and artist Jim Ford. An exhibit of Ford’s artwork will be presented at the Scottish Rite Temple at 6151 H St. on Nov. 23-25.
For many people in the Land Park area and throughout the region for that matter, it can be hard to believe that another landmark Sacramento business – Ford’s Real Hamburgers – has folded.
It has been only a week since the doors of this restaurant closed to the public during what could have been a joyous time in the history of the business. This popular eatery at 1948 Sutterville Road, next to William Land Park, was about to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
The story of Ford’s Real Hamburgers, which opened on Oct. 23, 1987 at the former site of Mr. Taco Drive-In restaurant, began with Jim Ford and his business partner, then-girlfriend and now wife, Karen DeVoe.
Ford, who was born in Sacramento and grew up in the Land Park area, referred to himself as a person who has always been business minded and enjoys becoming involved in projects.
Although Ford’s Real Hamburgers was one of his more successful projects, Ford said that the restaurant began with limited funds and little notoriety.
“In 1987, when we opened, we had very little money, so we had a ‘Grand Chair Opening,’ and invited 200 people to bring a variety of different chairs to use on the outdoor patio,” Ford said.
Despite working with a small budget, Ford and DeVoe held fast to their commitment to use high quality food products at the restaurant.
Ford’s most important goal was to select the best hamburger meat he could locate in the city.
He added that this search ended at Taylor’s Market in Land Park.
“I did my research and looked for someone to fresh grind chuck, so that it had a fat content of 16 to 20 percent,” Ford said. “Ed Schell of Taylor’s Market fit the bill. Ed ground our meat from the beginning and we could always tell when Ed did not grind the meat, because the fat to meat ratio was not correct.”
Schell, who continues to work at Taylor’s on Saturdays, described the quality of meat that was used at Ford’s.
“(Ford) got the best meat that there was available in this world,” Schell said. “It was not already ground once like a lot of stores do now. His stuff came from whole beef that was cut and then ground for him daily. It was from the best cuts of meat from the shoulder of the beef. I would grind 80 to 120 pounds of (hamburger meat) for Ford’s a day, and it would take maybe a couple of hours to (grind) it all.”
And after the meat was delivered to Ford’s, it was gently formed into patties by hand.
Schell said that Ford’s continued to use ground chuck from Taylor’s until only a few months ago.
“(Ford’s) stopped using (Taylor’s ground chuck), because of the price,” Schell said. “Actually, I can’t blame (Ford’s), if they were losing money and the business was struggling.”
Ford said that Taylor’s most unique burger was its “Football” burger.
“The ‘Football’ burger was put on the menu to be unique and give people something to talk about,” Ford said. “It was easy to make. We would combine two half-pound burgers. We were always amazed and amused when people ordered and ate one. It was usually the young males under 25 who would finish eating the ‘Football.’ It weighed one-pound and was served on a small loaf of bread.”
Originally, the ‘Football’ cost $6.99 without cheese and bacon, $8.69 with cheese or $11.99 with cheese and bacon.
The “Football” remained on the menu until the restaurant’s closure. It last had a price of $14.72 for the regular ‘Football,’ $16.57 with cheese or $20.41 with cheese and bacon.
From the opening of Ford’s until four years ago, this restaurant used large buns that were made by the Muzio Baking Co. in East Sacramento.
As for the burger sauce, Ford’s used homemade Thousand Island dressing that consisted of Best Foods mayonnaise, Heinz ketchup, honey and pepper.
And when it came to this eatery’s french fries, Ford said that Ford’s was possibly a Sacramento original.
“We used fresh potatoes for our french fries,” Ford said. “The only other competitor that used fresh-cut fries that I am aware of was In-N-Out Burger and they were all the way in Los Angeles.”
Ford’s milkshakes were originally made with Crystal ice cream. This ice cream was selected due to its high butterfat content.
A bit of trivia that few people know about Ford’s Real Hamburgers was that it nearly opened as Jay’s Real Hamburgers. The name was selected as a tribute to Ford’s late brother, Jay.
But with the then-recent opening of Chevy’s Fresh Mex restaurant on the Garden Highway, Ford figured it would be clever to name his restaurant Ford’s.
Although this Land Park restaurant had his name on it, Ford said that had it not been for DeVoe, Ford’s would have never had the opportunity to become nearly 25 years old.
“If it were not for (DeVoe’s) daily diligence and operating the heart of the business – hiring the employees, keeping the scheduling, monitoring food costs and payroll – as well as stepping in as a cook, I would have closed the doors (of the restaurant),” Ford said. “She has been my best friend for the past 29 years.”
Ford also recognized Michael “Poodle” Welch for his assistance during the beginning stages of the restaurant.
“(Welch) was instrumental in the first few months of operations by showing us the magic of prepping and cooking,” Ford said. “As long as we had cold beer in the refrigerator, he came in every morning to help through the lunch rush and then he would leave to work for his regular chef position (at Peter B’s Freeport Inn).”
Also working with the restaurant very early in its history was Land Park resident and Ford’s good friend, Jim McGinnis, who aided the business with financial, moral and labor assistance.
The restaurant experienced an increase in its notoriety in December 1987 after Sacramento Bee writer Bob Sylva dedicated an entire column to Ford and his restaurant.
In the column, Ford was quoted as saying, “I have something that America truly wants. America is fed up with fast food, rubber burgers. People are sick of the taste, the Styrofoam, the greasiness, the pale color, the generic factor. We are totally opposite of that. The best burger is the simplest burger. And it doesn’t have to taste like it was shipped frozen from Chicago.”
Sylva comically referred to Ford’s words as “a sort of ground chuck manifesto.”
Seven months after Sylva’s column was published, Jim Van Nort of Jim-Denny’s hamburger eatery at 816 12th St., retired.
Van Nort’s retirement and what proved to be a temporary closure of his restaurant was the inspiration behind Bee restaurant reviewer Mike Dunne’s lengthy article, “The Great Sacramento Hamburger Hunt.”
Dunne concluded in the article that Ford’s served the city’s best hamburgers.
Many Bee readers wrote letters to the editor voicing their opinions that Ford’s did not make Sacramento’s best hamburgers.
In response to these letters and some telephone calls to the publication, The Bee held another best hamburgers contest less than two months later. Once again, Ford’s was determined to serve the city’s best burgers.
As a result of these contests, Ford’s popularity grew and the restaurant doubled its number of employees to keep up with the increase in its daily customers.
In August 1991, Ford’s was sold to Pete Vereschzagin, who operated the business until last January, when his son, Hank, took over its operations.
The popularity of Ford’s remained strong for many years, but eventually fewer customers dined at this eatery each day.
Nonetheless, Ford’s remained a notable destination spot and a local institution.
Ford’s folded after experiencing financial difficulties and being faced with an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit.
In commenting about the closure of Ford’s, Pete said, “We see it as a family loss. We had it as a family establishment for 21 years. I appreciated my customers and it was a total joy working there with my sons (Hank and Sam) and it’s sad to see it go.”
The 8th Annual Urban Cow Half-Marathon, Half Marathon Relay and No Boundaries 5K Fun Run & Walk took place on Sunday, Oct. 7 in William Land Park. All races began at the northeast corner of the park along Freeport Boulevard, across from Sacramento City College. Local, non-profit youth running programs and high school x-country teams received much needed funding from the event. In addition, partial proceeds from Urban Cow go to the American River Parkway Foundation.
Hundreds came out to William Land Park on Sunday, Sept. 9 for a celebratory competitive 5K run and 2-mile walk and fun run in honor or memory of loved ones affected by scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder. The run was Scleroderma Foundation local chapter’s major source of raising money for research to find the cause and cure for scleroderma. The funds also help the local chapter provide the necessary support resources and free educational forums for patients and families. In 2011, the Sacramento event raised over $43,000 in proceeds with over 500 people in attendance.
The Sacramento Zoo’s giraffe herd has grown from four to five in the last month. “Shani” came to the Sacramento Zoo from the L.A. Zoo in mid-August and has completed quarantine. She is now exploring the exhibit and getting to know the Zoo’s three female Reticulated Giraffes and her new companion Chifu, a two-year-old male Masai Giraffe.
“Eventually Shani and Chifu will become the nucleus of a Masai Giraffe herd,” said Harrison Edell, General Curator. “As part of the Masai Giraffe Species Survival Plan, the creation of this new herd will support genetic diversity in the North American Masai Giraffe population.”
Born Aug. 30, 2010, Shani stands approximately 11 feet tall. When full grown, she is expected to reach between 16 and 19 feet, smaller than the male by a few feet. Shani’s name comes from the Swahili word for “wondrous.” Keepers have noted that she enjoys the presence of the other giraffes and is getting along well with Chifu.
The Masai Giraffe is the largest giraffe subspecies and is found in southern Kenya and Tanzania. In addition to a difference in size, Reticulated and Masai Giraffes tend to have slightly different spots. A Masai giraffe’s spots are usually darker and irregular in shape.
Shani and Chifu are two of fewer than 100 Masai Giraffes in institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Giraffes in captivity have helped field researchers, such as those from the Wild Nature Institute, to recognize physical characteristics and social behaviors in the wild. The Wild Nature Institute is currently studying the demography of Masai Giraffes and the African Savannah ecosystem with photo recognition software. Through this methodology, researchers can follow the giraffes’ movements and reproduction habits in order to understand where and why they are declining in the wild. The study includes more than 1500 Masai Giraffes. The partnership between the Sacramento Zoo and the Wild Nature Institute is an example of research and education supporting conservation.
Located near the corner of Land Park Drive and Sutterville Road in William Land Park, the Zoo is wholly managed by the non-profit Sacramento Zoological Society. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., general admission is $11.25; children ages 2-11 are $7.25 and one and under are admitted free. Parking is free throughout the park or ride Regional Transit bus No. 6. For information, call 916-808-5888 or visit saczoo.org.