About Us

A Modern Link to the Past!

The Sacramento History Museum sits on the traditional territory and ancestral homelands of the Nisenan Tribal people. The Sacramento Valley was, and still is, land that has been inhabited for thousands of years since time immemorial by the Nisenan, Miwok, Patwin, and Maidu people.

Specifically, for Sacramento, the area was made up of small villages consisting of a couple dozen to a few hundred members that enjoyed prosperous and secure lives and were stewards of the land and its natural resources prior to European-American contact. Some of the Nisenan village names that inhabited what is today the City of Sacramento are Momoi, Sa’cum, Sama, Pusune, Sekumni, Yusumne, and Kadema.

Today, active members of Native Californian Tribes remain committed to holding and preserving their cultural heritage and working with historic sites and museums to make sure a more holistic history is discussed and interpreted.

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.