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Sutter's Fort
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
The grounds of Sutter's Fort
Sutter's Fort is located in California
Location: Sacramento, California
Coordinates: 38°34′20″N 121°28′12″W / 38.57222°N 121.47°W / 38.57222; -121.47Coordinates: 38°34′20″N 121°28′12″W / 38.57222°N 121.47°W / 38.57222; -121.47
Area: 5.80 acres
Built/Founded: 1839
Architect: John Sutter
Governing body: California State Parks
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966
Designated NHL: January 20, 1961[2]
NRHP Reference#: 66000221[1]

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park is a state-protected park in Sacramento, California which includes Sutter's Fort and the California State Indian Museum. Begun in 1839 and originally called "New Helvetia" (New Switzerland) by its builder, John Sutter, the fort was a 19th century agricultural and trade colony in California.[3][4] The fort was the first non-Native American community in the California Central Valley.[5] The fort is famous for its association with the Donner Party, the California Gold Rush and the formation of Sacramento. It is notable for its proximity to the end of the California Trail and Siskiyou Trails for which it served as a waystation.

After gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill (also owned by Sutter) in Coloma, the fort was abandoned.[2][6] The adobe structure has been restored to its original condition and is now administered by California State Parks, although threatened with closure. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.[2]



The compound was built near the junction of the American and Sacramento Rivers and is located at what is now the intersection of 27th and L Streets in the Midtown neighborhood of the city of Sacramento.


John Sutter's personal desk
Contemporaneous illustration of Sutter's Fort
Painting of Sutter's Fort ruins, ca. 1900

The Main Building of the fort is a two story adobe structure built between 1841 and 1843. This building is the only original surviving structure at the reconstructed Sutter's Fort State Historic Park. It was in here on January 28, 1848 that James Marshall met privately with Sutter in order to show Sutter the gold that Marshall had found during the construction of Sutter's sawmill along the American River only four days earlier. Sutter built the original fort with walls 2.5 feet thick and 15 to 18 feet high.[7]

Following word of the Gold Rush, the fort was largely deserted by the 1850s and fell into disrepair. In 1891, the Native Sons of the Golden West embarked on a restoration of the fort, completing their repair efforts in 1893. In 1947, the fort was transferred to the authority of California State Parks.

Most of the original neighborhood structures were initially built in the late 1930s as residences, many of which have been converted to commercial uses such as private medical practices. The history of the neighborhood is largely residential.

Geography and geology

John Sutter plaque at Sutter's Fort

Sutter's Fort is located on level ground at an elevation of approximately 20 feet above mean sea datum[8]. The slope elevation decreases northward toward the American River and westward toward the Sacramento River. Slope elevation gradually increases to the south and east, away from the rivers. All surface drainage flows toward the Sacramento River. Groundwater in the vicinity flows south-southwest toward the Sacramento Delta; however, after peak rainfall, because of a swollen Sacramento River, the groundwater flow can actually reverse and flow away from the river.[9]

Not currently proposed for closure

As of late August 2009, Sutter's Fort is scheduled to remain open, albeit with a fee increase and a potential for reduced staffing due to California's Budget crisis. [1]

See also


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.  
  2. ^ a b c NHL Summary
  3. ^ NPS Redbook
  4. ^ John Sutter Biography
  5. ^ Sutter's Fort State Historical Park Information
  6. ^ NHL Writeup
  7. ^ Sutter's Fort Historical Profile
  8. ^ U.S. Geological Survey, Sacramento East Quadrangle, 1967, photorevised 1980
  9. ^ Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, 2617 K Street, Sacramento, California, Earth Metrics Inc. Report # 10185, October 3, 1789

External links



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