Sutter Fort State Historic Park
When John Sutter received a land grant for the Sacramento Valley from Mexico in 1839, he named it “New Helvetica” (New Switzerland). John Sutter was a Swiss immigrant responsible for creating an agricultural empire which became Sacramento’s earliest non-Indian settlement in central California. He also became known for aiding the Donner Party and gained a reputation of generosity and hospitality. As word traveled, New Helvetica became a destination for immigrants coming to California.
John Sutter planted grapes and wheat and raised cattle on over 150,000 acres of land. In less than ten years after the founding of New Helvetica, one of John Sutter’s carpenters, James Marshall, discovered gold at a sawmill under construction in Coloma on the American River. This discovery set off the famous Gold Rush.
The fort was part of the settlement that John Sutter established and was the only building of New Helvetica to survive after being overrun by gold seekers less than a decade after being built. With walls 2 and ½ feet thick that towered 15 to 18 feet high, this fort was impressive. The fort has been restored and has the designation of being the oldest restored fort in the United States. Step into Sutter Fort and step into the past as you see the furnishings of the period.
Sutter Fort represents the big dreams that shaped California. Today you can tour the fort and view numerous exhibits and programs. You’ll see the store, Sutter’s bedroom, Blacksmith’s room, gun repair, carpenter’s shop, a mill, distillery, kitchen, doctor’s office, bakery, weaving room, immigrant’s quarters, stables and more within the walls of the fort.
A statue across the street from the fort shows and commemorates the contributions John Sutter made to California. Also, just behind Sutter Fort is the California State Indian Museum which features a collection of cultural artifacts like baskets, beadwork and clothing. An exhibit about Ishi, the last Yahi Indian can be found here. If time allows, after visiting Sutter Fort, plan on stopping by at this inexpensive museum. It costs just $2 for adults and $1 for children from 6 to 12.
Researchers can make an appointment to view the archives located at Sutter Fort. The archives here are unique, climate controlled collection of photos, tintypes, daguerreotypes, diaries, letters, books, business records and maps that document the lives of John Sutter and many pioneer families who settled the area.
Sutter Fort is open daily (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day) from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
2701 L Street
Sacramento, CA 95816