Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tower Bridge

Probably as much a landmark as the Capital building, the beloved Tower Bridge dominates the riverscape in downtown Sac. This was built in the 1930s to replace an older combination railroad/road bridge that brought the Sacramento Northern interurban into the city from the west.

Tower Bridge, so named for a slight similarity to its namesake in London.

And like the London one, this Tower Bridge is a draw bridge, in this case a lift bridge. Not too common...I think the closest is the 17th Street Bridge over the Ohio in Louisville.

The river in Sac is still navigatable, so the bridge does see occasional use.
One of Sacramentos many nicknames is River City, and it is indeed that, orginally built by the steamboat trade as much as Louisville and Memphis. The city really embraces its rivers, too (the American River, which joins the Sacramento just north of downtown, is clean enough to swim in, though cold from the Sierra meltwater and springs)

The aerial below shows how the bridge interfaces with the city, as well as some local landmarks.

Old Sacramento was the original downtown at the steamboat landing, and is now a tourist spot (more on that later), and the old SP steamship docks at the landing site.

The "Miami Vice Building" (I have no idea what it's really called) of the 1980s, nicknamed after the architecture in the TV series, was the first of the taller commercial skyscrapers, pretty much kicking off the citys high-rise expansion. The Crocker is an old mansion converted to an art museum.
The bridge opens onto M Street, renamed Capital Avenue, and terminates the westward vista on this street, which has been developed as a boulevard leading up to the capital building.

A better view of the vista is in this illustration for a proposed skyscraper. A fittingly grand, amost quasi-baroque boulevard leading up the seat of government of "California Republic", with the capital park in the background....

Unfortunatley this is pretty sterile monumental space, lacking the human scale of a true European allee or boulevard.

Another view of Tower Bridge, this time more toward downtown and Old Sac. The Delta King (sister ship to the Delta Queen) is visible in this pix.

One can see the former expanse SP yards and shops, which will be undergoing redevelopment. Though steamboat trade (and being selected the capitol) was the original impetus for growth it was the railroad, specifically being the terminus for the transcontinental railroad, that really built Sacramento in the 19th century.

Some other highlights...Chinatown Center, once the old Chinatown, now offices, restaurant, and housing. The larger towns in the Delta, along the river south of here, had Chinatowns for the Chinese field and levee workers. Sacto had one too. Of these, the best preserved is Locke.
Union Station is being used for Amtrak trains now (there is pretty agressive Amtrak service in California, which is a bit unexpected given the state's rep for auto centric living. Macys is the downtown dept. store, part of a shopping center we will look at a bit later.

Next up, a visit to Old Sac.

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