Buildings line what used to be an Old Sacramento street in the 1850s before sidewalks and buildings were raised about 10 feet to escape the regular flooding that would occur. (Photos by Steve Martarano)

Head Underground to See the Hidden World of Gold Rush Sacramento

Back Photo gallery Jun 30, 2021 By Steve Martarano

Many visitors to Old Sacramento may not be aware that remnants of an 1850s gold rush city still exist below the buildings and cobbled roads.

Since 2010, the Sacramento History Museum has taken visitors on several different underground tours showing slices of a hidden Sacramento. The tours featured actors costumed as a variety of characters who lived in the flood-prone town before a massive project raised the buildings and sidewalks approximately 10 feet in the 1860s and 1870s. Streets and buildings in Old Sacramento were elevated to avoid further flooding from the American River, obscuring the sidewalks and sloped alleyways of a neighborhood that was once home to estimated 500 businesses and residents, says Shawn Turner, the tour manager for the museum.

The popular tours were postponed in 2020 because of COVID-19, but will begin again during the July 4 weekend. The tours begin at the museum and explore spaces below two of the oldest buildings in Old Sacramento: the B.F. Hastings Bank Building and the Hall, Luhrs & Company store. Visitors hear facts about Sacramento and the gold rush and see artifacts excavated over the years by the Cosumnes River Archeological Working Lab, a research lab associated with Cosumnes River College, and other efforts. “We meet lots of people, who have lived here (in Sacramento) their entire life, say they never heard some of the stories we tell,” Turner says.

Here’s a sampling of what lies underground.

The Old Sacramento underground tours explore below two buildings, the B.F. Hastings Bank Building and the Hall, Luhrs & Company store.

The Hall, Luhrs & Company wholesale grocer was in business from 1885 to 1906.

These artifacts are from an 1852 Cochran & Reid tin store.

A display shows the process used to raise the buildings in Old Sacramento in the 1860s and 1870s.

These artifacts were uncovered from a drugstore in Old Sacramento.

Old Sacramento was once home to many brothels, or “houses of ill fame,” as tour manager Shawn Turner calls them, where these artifacts were uncovered.

A display depicts some of the crude surgical tools used by the numerous doctors that used to inhabit Sacramento in the 1850s.

Tools like these were used to excavate artifacts from the streets of Sacramento.

Iceboxes like this were used for refrigeration in Sacramento in the 1800s.

Benches adorned the sidewalks of Sacramento along the original streets before the area was raised about 10 feet to escape the frequent floods that plagued the city.

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