Capitol Park

Points of Interest    •    Memorials & Monuments

  • Camellia Grove
  • Commemorative Seals
  • Indian Grinding Rock
  • Native Plant Life
  • Trout Pond
  • West Capitol Steps
  • World Peace Rose Garden
  • Capitol Park Tree Booklet
  • Capitol Park Memorial Booklet

Honoring the Pioneers' Contributions

Pioneer Camellia Grove - Established as a living memorial to the early builders of California in recognition of their courage, determination & contribution toward progress in the community & our golden state. Dedicated June 7, 1953 by the Sacramento County Parlor of the Native Sons & Daughters of the Golden West.

— Camellia Grove Dedication Plaque

Sacramento has a long-running attachment to the camellia flower, and since early statehood this flower has been a trademark of the city. In fact the discovery of gold in Coloma in 1848 was indirectly responsible for the camellia arriving in northern California.

Camellias were first introduced to California in the 1850s and have become a Sacramento tradition. The Camellia Grove pays tribute to the pioneers who shaped the state.

Camellias, like the pioneers they honor, are not native to California. Originally from Southeast Asia, they made their debut in Sacramento during the Gold Rush. James Lloyd Lafayette Franklin Warren, a local seed store owner, brought the first seeds from Boston in 1852. Little did he know that Sacramento would become the "Camellia City of the World" ─ the title bestowed upon it in the 1920s.

Since then Sacramento has hosted special events every spring during the peak of the camellia season. In the past these events were actually festivals lasting several weeks, and visitors came from around the world to attend. Volunteers gave out flowers at the airport, convalescent homes, and other locations throughout the city.

The Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West dedicated Capitol Park's Camellia Grove to the memory of their pioneer ancestors in 1953. More than 800 different varieties can be found throughout the park, with blossoms in white, deep red, and every shade in between. Some are even striped and speckled in a combination of colors. Many of the grove's 186 camellias are heirloom varieties and no longer available commercially. camellias and seeds The grove is especially beautiful from fall to spring when the dark, leathery leaves complement the colorful blossoms.

In the 1990s Camellia Day at the State Capitol replaced the longer festivals. The event is sponsored by the California State Capitol Museum and the California State Capitol Museum Volunteer Association. Each year volunteers hand out corsages made with flowers picked from the Camellia Grove.

A gradual shift from the use of natural, living memorials like the grove to manmade monuments can be seen nearby. The Camellia Grove now forms a backdrop for a statue of Father Junípero Serra installed in 1965. Serra, a Franciscan friar, established the first California missions in the 1700s.


Anticipating the Future and Honoring the Past

"...these seals are a powerful statement...they will tell people that the legislature and the administration honors and respects its California Indians and Hispanic people."

— Larry Myers, May 28, 2002, Seals Dedication Ceremony

On May 28, 2002, the California Indian Seal and the Spanish-Mexican Seal were installed in front of the State Capitol flanking the Great Seal of California.

These large bronze seals measure six feet in diameter and are filled with cultural and artistic details. The images that adorn the seals celebrate both current and past contributions of the California Indians and the Spanish and Mexican peoples who held sovereignty in this region before California became a state. Both seals represent important chapters in our state's history. The seals also point out that California's future lies in the continued strength of our diversity trough a clear understanding of our past. The seals' very existence are a testament to the collaboration of many cultural heritages that are alive and active in California today.

A Testament to California's History Before Statehood

The idea of recognizing California's history prior to statehood originated with Larry Myers, the Executive Secretary of the Native American Heritage Commission. With State Librarian Kevin Starr, Secretary Myers approached Assemblyman Robert M. Hertzberg, who supported the idea and carried legislation making the vision a reality.

In 1998 the California Legislature created the Commemorative Seals Advisory Committee and authorized it to develop the seals. The Committee defined the vision for the seals, chose the artists, and managed design and development decisions. They worked with the State of California Library to ensure historical accuracy, and raised the private funds that complemented state funds.

The Committee felt strongly that the seals should be placed at the West Capitol Steps, the entrance to the home of California's government and the physical representation of its people. This location deliberately and powerfully signals the value California places on the contributions of generations of California Indians and Hispanic people.

Robert Freeman, a California Indian from the Southern California Rincon Indian Reservation created the California Indian Seal. Susan Shelton and Donna Billick created the Spanish/Mexican Seal. The artists worked closely with Alan Osborne of the Art Foundry in Sacramento to ensure that the final bronze pieces accurately represented their original Corn and Field Element from Mexican Sealdesigns. To see the artists at work, go to the Creation Process Related Link at this tour stop.

Larry Myers, chair of the Commemorative Seals Advisory Committee, summed up the vision and importance of the seals with these words at the dedication ceremony.

"Today we honor the Indians that have gone before us and the Hispanic people that have gone before us. We honor you that are here today and we also honor the future. We honor our children. Because these seals are powerful statements, they will tell every tourist and every third-grader that enters the Capitol through the West Steps some information about California Indians and Hispanic people. They will also tell those people that the legislature and the administration honors and respects its California Indians and Hispanic people. And I think it's about time that has happened. I think these seals on these steps are really, really an important step towards that."

A Gathering Place

This rock and the oak tree that stands behind it honor the contributions, past and present, that California Indians have made to the state's history and culture.

For thousands of years, native Indians lived in harmony with nature on the land that would later become the state of California. The men fished and hunted. The women harvested seeds, dug roots, and gathered herbs. And each fall men, women, and children came together to gather acorns, an important source of food.

In three days a family could harvest enough acorns to feed themselves for an entire year. Once harvested the acorns were dried. The women then pounded the acorns into meal Stone for Grindingfrom which they would make soup and mush, often using a rock like the one displayed in Capitol Park. Native Californians differ on the use of the name "grinding rock." Some prefer to call such rocks "pounding rocks," since acorns were really pounded into meal rather than ground. Acorns and FlourOthers call them "bedrock mortars," because the rocks served as a mortar against which women pounded the dried acorns using a stone pestle. This process left holes in the rock over many generations of use.

"From the this boulder many women would come to sit and work. They sat and pounded, winnowed, gossiped, scolded children, pounded acorns until they had deep holes sculptured in this hard black bedrock outcrop."

— Ooti, A Maidu Legend

Making the acorn meal was a time-consuming and tedious job. To pass the time, women told stories and sang songs as they worked. The children who played nearby learned the traditions of their people through their mothers' stories and songs.

Today these traditions remain important aspects of California Indian life. Each year California Indians gather at Capitol Park's grinding rock to honor the oak tree and its food-producing ability. They conduct centuries-old ceremonies to pay tribute to their ancestors as well as present-day and future Indian people through dance, song, and prayer. In their homes California Indians still prepare and eat acorn mush using modern-day appliances and sometimes the traditional rock and pestle.

Capitol Park's collection of native plants represent the natural flora that thrived in California before Europeans arrived and began to change the landscape.

California supports a tremendous range of ecosystems, from desert to high mountains, foggy coasts to warm inland valleys, and includes the highest and lowest elevations in the continental United States. This diversity has produced a large number of native species in California, plants and animals that grow only here and nowhere else.

California's native plants once formed the backbone of our natural communities. However the biodiversity of these natural communities was reduced after the arrival of Spanish, Mexican, and Gold Rush-era settlers. They introduced new species that aggressively competed with and eliminated some of California's native plants and animals. By the early 1900s, a conservation movement, epitomized by President Theodore Roosevelt, began addressing the need for a more sustainable and balanced usage of the state's and nation's natural resources. Native species and their extinction over a relatively short period of time became a topic of discussion within California as indigenous animals such as the grizzly bear and elk began to disappear.

Capitol Park's Native Plants section is a product of America's early conservationist movement. Governor Hiram Johnson enlisted the help of the states' schoolchildren in 1914 to create a section of Capitol Park that would represent some of California's diverse natural environment. He appealed to youngsters living in each of the state's 58 counties to identify and donate common trees and shrubs from their geographic region for Capitol Park. Today this area of the park preserves several native species that were once common in California's natural world, but are scarce today.

The Trout Pond is located near Memorial Grove and is a feature dating back to the early years of Capitol Park.

Records indicate that workers enlarged and improved the pond during the construction of the East Annex in 1949. This enlargement was done in part to make room for the addition of a monument honoring the veterans of the Spanish American War. Today, “The Hiker” statue, the centerpiece of that monument, presides over the Trout Pond.

The California Department of Fish and Game has historically stocked the pond each spring with Rainbow Trout. The fish are fed a special formula food, which the department developed for fish raised in captivity. The Department of Fish and Game release the fish each fall so that they may complete their lifecycle. Rainbow Trout are related to the California Golden Trout, which the Legislature has designated as the official state fish of California. The golden trout is native to California, originally found only in a few icy streams of the headwaters of the Kern River.

"An edifice should be constructed that will be satisfactory of the grandeur of the coming time surrounded by grounds with a beauty and luxuriousness that no other capitol in the country could boast."

— Governor Leland Stanford

This quote from Governor Stanford's annual address on December 8, 1863, reflects the government's plans for creating a park to surround the Capitol. The original park grounds covered four square blocks. In 1863, the State purchased an additional 21.15 acres for the sum of $100,000.

Beautification of the park began in 1870, four years before the Capitol's completion in 1874. The land was first graded and augmented with river silt and soil, then planted with 800 trees, shrubs, and flowers. The landscaping included more than 200 varieties of rare plants from nearly every continent and climate around the world, from subtropic to subarctic. They were acquired through the State's affiliation with the State Agriculture Society, which was in contact with horticultural and agricultural organizations worldwide.

Many of the non-native tree and shrub species planted over a century ago continue to thrive. Due to Sacramento's temperate climate and steady water supply from rivers, several of the park's tree species are said to grow larger and better here than in their native habitats.

Examples of original plantings that still flourish in the park include several deodar cedars along the west side of the Capitol and a group of elm trees and California fan palms. The cedars are native to India's Himalaya Mountains and were planted here in 1872. The elms and palms, planted in 1882, once lined a path used by visitors who drove their carriages through the park for recreation.

Over the years both acreage and plantings have been added to the park. Now 40 acres and spanning 12 city blocks, its landscaping includes hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, and flowers, from sequoias, redwoods, and magnolias to roses, camellias, and cacti. An average of 20,000 new plants and flowering bulbs are planted annually. A multitude of bird species and squirrels can be found in the trees, walkways, and even on benches. And more than one million people come to the park each year to visit its memorials and monuments, sit or stroll among the greenery, and participate in a variety of activities.

There are now two new seals that flank the Great Seal in front of the Capitol, the Native California Seal and the Spanish-Mexican Seal. These seals commemorate Native, Spanish, and Mexican sovereignty in California.

"A living reminder that peace begins within the hearts of each one of us - in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions. Daily each one of us has an opportunity to make our world a better place."

─ Sylvia Villalobos

A founder of the International World Peace Rose Gardens organization, Sylvia Villalobos, wrote this powerful message as a reminder that world peace begins with each one of us.

The World Peace Rose Garden, established in Capitol Park in 2003, was created as a sanctuary of peace, love, and inspiration for people of all nations, cultures, and religions. The garden is dedicated to women, children, and families.

The rose, the official flower of the United States, serves as a silent ambassador of peace and a symbol of unity. Throughout the garden many of the roses bear names that allude to peace: Lasting Peace Rose, Desert Peace Rose, Glowing Peace, Pink Peace, Chicago Peace, and Love & Peace.

This Victorian style garden, with a fountain as its centerpiece, features more than 650 roses with more than 153 varieties, colors, and fragrances. Visitors can stroll the garden's numerous pathways or relax on the benches that line them. Inspirational peace messages written by grade school children are inscribed on plaques throughout the garden. Northeast of the garden the elegant Peace Pavilion, surrounded by a seating wall, is available for family, public, and civic events.

The southeast section serves as a test garden for the All-American Rose Selections. Visitors are afforded the opportunity to see new rose varieties before they are available to the public. The World Peace Rose Garden is one of very few gardens selected for this honor.

The garden also features a veterans' section with roses named after wars, honor medals, and veterans. It is located near the Vietnam Memorial.

While the garden includes sections dedicated to specific types of roses, it also contains varieties of special roses that are planted throughout the garden. For example there are various celebrity rose bushes. The Santa Claus Rose; Michelangelo Rose; César Chávez Rose; Bing Crosby Rose; Diana, Princess of Wales Rose; Barbara Streisand Rose; Rosie O'Donnell Rose; John F. Kennedy Rose; and the Betty Boop Rose are several examples.

The California State Capitol World Peace Rose Garden was dedicated on May 16, 2003. Prior to that date, the original rose garden had been established at this same location. More information about the origins of the rose garden and the history of roses can be found in the Splendor of Blooms related link in this tour stop.

The International World Peace Rose Garden is a Sacramento-based, nonprofit organization established in 1988. Its mission is to promote peace and harmony in the world through the creation of thoughtfully designed rose gardens that become centers of community action. International World Peace Rose Gardens have been established in:

Lake Shrine Gandhi Peace Memorial
Pacific Palisades, California
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mexico City, Mexico
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Sacramento, California
The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
Assisi, Italy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Atlanta, Georgia

For more information about these gardens or the organization, visit the World Peace Gardens website.

Capitol Park Tree Booklet

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Memorials & Monuments    •    Points of Interest

  • Mexican-American War
  • Junípero Serra
  • Firefighters Memorial
  • Memorial Grove
  • Peace Officers Memorial
  • Spanish-American War
  • USS California Bell
  • Veterans Memorial
  • Vietnam Memorial

A group of Mexican American women who had lost their sons in World War II commissioned the sculpture and memorial’s construction in 1951.

"El Soldado," a small statue of a 1940s-era infantryman, stands across from the Capitol near the fountain between the Library and Courts building and the Legislative office building.

Officials moved the statue to its present location in 1975. In 1985, legislation sponsored by former state Assembly Member Richard Polanco ceded the state grounds to the memorial and authorized its expansion.

Since then, a group has been raising funds for a new memorial, which would include the names of the approximately 3,000 Latino soldiers from California who have died in the armed forces since World War I, as well as space for future Mexican Americans who may give their lives in war.

This monument, a tribute to Father Junípero Serra, was erected near Camellia Grove in Capitol Park in 1965. A priest in the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church, Father Serra was charged with leading the development of the California mission system beginning in 1768.

Father Junípero Serra was born Miguel José Serra in 1713 on the small Spanish island of Mallorca. As a priest, Father Serra traveled to the New Spain colonial territory of Mexico in 1749 to devote himself to missionary work. Appointed head of the Spanish missions in 1767, he established his first mission in what is now the state of California at San Diego in 1769.

Before his death in 1784, Father Junípero Serra helped to establish nine Spanish missions in California:

  • Mission of San Diego
    July 16, 1769
  • Mission San Carlos Borromeo
    June 3, 1770
  • Mission San Antonio de Padua
    July 14, 1771
  • Mission San Gabriel
    September 8, 1771
  • Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
    September 1, 1772
  • Mission San Francisco de Asis
    June 29, 1776
  • Mission San Juan Capistrano
    November 1, 1776
  • Mission Santa Clara de Asis
    January 12, 1777
  • Mission San Buenaventura
    March 31, 1782

The Courage of Everyday Heroes

"On this spot the people of California are building a memorial to honor those firefighters who lost their lives protecting our neighborhoods, our homes, our families and our dreams."

─ California Firefighter Memorial site dedication, 1995

The California Firefighters' Memorial in Capitol Park serves as an enduring remembrance of the men and women who lost their lives while serving on California's front lines of public safety. The state depends on firefighters to ensure Californians' safety. Whether battling a structure blaze, handling hazardous materials spills, or as first responders in the face of natural disaster, the firefighters' workplace is challenging, hazardous and, many times, unforgiving. A firefighting crew embodies the true spirit of self-sacrifice each time it answers an alarm─the families and friends of those whose names are immortalized in the memorial know this all too well. With its bronze statues and limestone memorial wall, the monument honors the more than 900 men and women who have died in the line of duty since California achieved statehood in 1850.

The idea for a California memorial came to California Professional Firefighters (CPF) President Dan Terry in 1992, while attending a ceremony at the International Association of Firefighters Memorial in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "I just kept thinking about all the families who would never have a chance to go to Colorado. They deserved a memorial in the state where their loved ones worked," said Terry. Terry worked with CPF Governmental Advocate Brian Hatch and California Assemblyman Rusty Arieas to steer a bill through the Legislature that would bring Terry's vision to life. Governor Pete Wilson signed Assembly Bill No. 3198 on September 29, 1992, stipulating the creation of the Firefighters' Memorial Task Force. This task force was entrusted with choosing the perfect location for the memorial in Capitol Park, while preserving the historical integrity and natural beauty of the park's grounds. The location near the center of Capitol Park was dedicated on May 31, 1995.

With one hurdle conquered, the next challenge was to secure funding to build the structure. In 1993 Governor Wilson signed two bills that would help CPF acquire the funds needed to build the memorial─the California Firefighters' Memorial Income Tax Check-off, and the California Firefighters' license plate. The income tax check-off provides a way for all Californians to honor their state's firefighters by choosing to donate a portion of their expected state tax refund to the memorial. The tax check-off program has thus far generated more than 0,000 for the California Fire Foundation, the memorial's fund-raising vehicle.

The California Firefighter License Plate allows firefighters to show their pride while helping fund the memorial. The plate's identifying feature is an image of actor Kurt Russell from the Universal Studios movie "Back Draft." The film's director, Ron Howard, personally helped secure permission to use the image on the plate, which is only available to active and retired firefighters. Its sale has so far helped raise more than 240.3 million for the memorial. To date these two grassroots fund-raising efforts have generated more than million for the memorial. The Firefighters' Memorial funds are provided exclusively through private donations.

The focal point of the memorial is the polished limestone wall that immortalizes the names of California's fallen firefighters. The wall bore 855 firefighters' names at the time of the memorial's unveiling. Blank panels serve as a somber reminder of the loss yet to be felt by the loved ones of firefighters who do not return from the call of duty. The wall is flanked on either side by bronze replicas of firefighter helmets and jackets, called turnouts, a reference to the long-held firehouse tradition of leaving the coat and hat of an off-duty firefighter hanging untouched until he or she returns to duty. To view the names engraved on the wall, choose Firefighters Memorial Wall under Virtual Tour Details at this tour stop.

There are few professions in which co-workers' lives depend on one another. When firefighters fall, their loss is at once a heartbreaking misfortune as well as a solemn reminder to their associates of their own mortality. The sculpture "Fallen Brother" depicts the sorrow felt by a firefighter as he retrieves his lifeless comrade from the flames. Artist Jesus Romo is a 26-year veteran of the Sacramento City Fire Department. He was inspired to create this homage to the fellowship of firefighting by his passion for his work and the losses he has felt personally during his lengthy career. San Francisco Fire Captain Gerry Shannon was given the honor of posing as the model for the struggling firefighter. Shannon displayed heroism during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake by rescuing a woman who'd been trapped in a collapsed building in San Francisco's Marina District. To view the story in more detail, go to the Fallen Brother Sculpture Video Story Related Link at this tour stop.

The sculpture "Holding the Line" pays tribute to the profession's spirit of teamwork, focus, and dedication. Three firefighters are charged with feeding the hose line up to the fourth who is holding the nozzle. Like Jesus Romo, artist Lawrence Noble chose to immortalize actual firefighters as models for his work: Chief Rose Conroy of the Davis Fire Department, the first woman ever to be named chief of a professional municipal fire department in California; Kenny Enslow, who perished fighting a forest fire in Mendocino County; Captain Steve Bowie of the Los Angeles County Fire Department; and Frank Reynoso, also of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. To view the story in more detail, go to the Holding the Line Sculpture Video Story Related Link at this tour stop.

On April 6, 2002, the California Firefighters' Memorial was officially unveiled. The families of fallen firefighters were invited to Sacramento to honor their lost loved ones and share their memories with others. Governor Gray Davis, along with CPF President Dan Terry, joined more than 2,000 uniformed firefighters to honor their lost colleagues. This emotional event was followed by the First Annual Ceremony on May 22, 2003, which honored those who lost their lives during the year following the memorial's dedication.

As evidenced by the disastrous fires in Southern California during the autumn of 2003, California will continue to rely on the self-sacrificing bravery of those who put their lives on the line for public safety. And sadly Californians will continue to honor those who have lost their lives in the line of duty by immortalizing their names on the monument's memorial wall.

For more information about California's firefighters and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, visit the CDF Firefighters website.

A Tribute to Civil War Veterans

The Civil War Memorial Grove, a living and growing monument, pays tribute to the thousands of men who lost their lives in the American Civil War.

The Grove has trees from the Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Savannah, Five Forks, Yellow Tavern, and Vicksburg battlefields. Some trees come from other Vine and Leaves Element from PlaqueCivil War-related sites including the tombs of Presidents McKinley and Lincoln.

The idea for the memorial grove dates to 1896, 31 years after the Confederate Army's surrender marked the end of the American Civil war. Mrs. Eliza Waggoner and the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans' wives and daughters, led the effort to create the memorial. Although California had sided with the Union Army, they felt the grove should represent all those who fought in the four-year war. Their concept was a living memorial featuring trees from important battlefields and other sites connected to the war.

The Civil War Memorial Grove was the first monument in Capitol Park. Nearly a year went into planning, fundraising, and assembling trees from around the country. On May 1, 1897, the grove was dedicated in a ceremony attended by several thousand onlookers. As children waved American flags, Judge Walling, Past Department Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, shared these words:

"This grove is intended to perpetuate the memory of those who gave up their lives that their country might live. They were different from other soldiers, and simply fought for the honor of the old flag and to show that the republic depended on the valor and patriotism of its citizens for its perpetuity."

At the time of the ceremony, the trees were just saplings, each marked with a tag naming the battlefield from which it came. A sapling from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania stood beside one from Shiloh, Tennessee; a sapling from Lexington, Kentucky next to one from the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia. In all 40 different battlefields were represented. At the center stood "a tree of Peace" transplanted from Appomattox, the Virginia town where the Confederate Army surrendered.

The Civil War was one of the most traumatic periods of American history, dividing families, brothers, friends, and neighbors. The Civil War Memorial Grove continues to honor and symbolically reunite the soldiers of both the Union and Confederate Armies.

"In the Line of Duty"

This memorial is dedicated to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting the citizens of the State of California.

Dedicated in May 13, 1988, the centerpiece of the monument is a thirteen foot tall bronze relief sculpture featuring three law enforcement officers; a 1880s county sheriff, a 1930s state traffic officer, and a 1980s city patrolman. Together, these figures represent the evolution of law enforcement in California. On the base of the monument, designers had inscribed these simple yet poignant words: “In the Line of Duty.” Along the back of the monument and on brick planter box in from of the monument, are individual plaques upon which the names of officers who lost their lives while serving the public are inscribed.

Another important element of the monument is a sculpture depicting a woman comforting a child. Done in bronze, the seated woman is rests on a bench embracing a child standing in front of her. Peace Officer MemorialNext to them on the bench is a bronze folded American flag. The woman and child provide a vivid and permanent sense of the grief that family members and friends experience each year when, during the week of May 15, they gather to honor the officers who have fallen in the line of duty during the preceding year. As part of the ceremony, officers’ names are read and then added to the memorial so that the public will not forget their sacrifice. Today, 1,315 names dating back to the nineteenth century are listed on the monument.

It's fitting that the artist who designed the monument was himself a retired police officer. Retired Division Chief Vic Riesau, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, not only designed the monument and created the artwork but also assisted with the fundraising efforts. The influence of both his tenure as a police officer and his activities as an artist lend themselves to this striking and meaningful monument.

In June of 1949, as part of the expansion and improvement of the trout pond located near Memorial Grove, a monument honoring the veterans of the Spanish-American War was unveiled.

The eight-and-a-half-foot-tall bronze statue, titled “The Hiker,” depicts a typical un-uniformed Spanish-American War soldier with his rifle. The statue is named after the soldiers of that war who were known as the Hikers. The monument is mounted on a massive rock that came from neighboring Folsom. The monument also features a plaque inscribed with the following dedication:

This monument erected by the United Spanish War Veterans Dept. of California to commemorate the valor and patriotism of the men who served in the war with Spanish Philippine Insurrection and China Relief Expedition 1898-1902. Dedicated June 14, 1949, under the auspices of the Department of California United States War Veterans.

Monument committee members and government officials dedicated the memorial amid much fanfare. Numerous veterans were present for the unveiling, which coincided with a state convention of the United Spanish War Veterans and Auxiliaries.

Distinguished Naval Service

Governor Earl Warren officially accepted the 350 lb cast bronze bell in a ceremony held at Capitol Park in October of 1949.

The bell had formerly been mounted on the battleship USS California. The Navy decommissioned the battleship in 1949 after its turbulent yet distinguished service during World War II.

An inscription on the structure to which the bell was attached in Capitol Park identifies the USS California as the only battleship to be built on the West Coast. Subsequent information reveals that this claim is erroneous; the USS Nebraska, USS Oregon, USS Wisconsin, and the USS Ohio were all built in West Coast shipyards. Despite a resolution sponsored by three Navy Veteran Assembly Members in 1954, the inscription was never corrected.

A Tribute to California's Military Heroes

"Our veterans...must not be forgotten. Their service, their sacrifice, their courage must be etched in America's memory...and the price they paid to pass on to us...the legacy of freedom and glory that is America."

— Governor Pete Wilson, 1998

These words from Governor Pete Wilson's address at the dedication of the California Veterans Memorial in December 1998 express the intent of the monument. It is a moving remembrance of the more than five million Californians who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since statehood in 1850.

The memorial is located in a quiet area of the park surrounded by a grove of mature trees. An arc of flags representing the various branches of the U.S. military, borders a 30-foot, black granite obelisk.

The California Veterans Memorial pairs the ancient obelisk shape with modern techniques. Images of war taken from photographs are etched into the granite structure. The images range from soldiers wounded in combat to a wife and child welcoming a serviceman home. Narrow fissures slice through each of the obelisk's four panels, symbolizing the devastation of war.

The effect inspires awe and patriotic reflection. The hardships endured by California veterans and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make are evident. In erecting and visiting the monument, Californians show their gratitude.

A Symbol of Peace and Patriotism

"Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."

─ U.S. Army Major Michael O'Donnell

Major O'Donnell wrote these moving lines while serving in Vietnam. His thoughts express the deep feelings embodied in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a tribute to the 350,000 Californians who served in Vietnam.

Designed by a Vietnam veteran and his colleague, the memorial, dedicated in 1988, is a personal reflection on daily life during the war. Its series of rings symbolizes a circle of life. The outside ring is made up of 22 black granite panels engraved with the names of the 5,822 Californians who died in the war or are still missing. Each soldier is remembered with his or her first and last name, military branch and rank, hometown, and age.

The inner ring depicts life during the conflict. It features four life-sized bronze statues: a pair of men in combat, two exhausted friends, a prisoner of war, and a nurse tending to a wounded soldier. Interestingly this is the first memorial to recognize the contributions of the 15,000 nurses who served in Vietnam.

In the center of the inner ring, another bronze statue depicts a nineteen-year-old combat soldier. His morose expression typifies the frankness of the memorial. Resting from battle he sits on his helmet cradling an M16 rifle and reading a letter from home. Michael Herr, a war correspondent in Vietnam, portrayed the soldier's despair in the following dispatch:

"He had one of those faces...all the youth sucked out of the eyes, the color drawn from the skin, old white lips, you knew he wouldn't wait for any of it to come back. Life had made him old, he'd live it out old... How do you feel when a nineteen-year-old kid tells you, from the bottom of his heart, that he's gotten too old for this kind of ____?"

The memorial means many things to many people and, as such, is the most visited monument in the park. Some come seeking the engraved name of a loved one. Others come to reflect on a period in history when so many young soldiers lost their lives. Some leave photographs, poems, and flowers for fallen heroes.

Visit The Museum

California State Capitol Museum
10th and L Streets
State Capitol
Room B-27
1315 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 324-0333
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