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In the 1970s, a wave of young people, including Sacramento State students and state employees, moved to Sacramento’s central city, drawn by inexpensive rents, beautiful homes and tree-lined streets. Many shared an interest in craftsmanship, sharing techniques to restore older homes and create unique works of art, and used these skills to fix up their own houses or started businesses to help others turn faded homes back into gems. Tim Holt, publisher of Sacramento’s Suttertown News weekly newspaper, called them “Sacramento’s Urban Pioneers–New People in Old Houses.” They left a legacy of art, craftsmanship, entrepeneurship, neighborhood activism, and restored historic homes. Join us for a presentation by Susan Ballew of photos capturing life in Midtown before the term "Midtown" had been coined, followed by a panel discussion featuring stained glass artist Mickey Abbey, Suttertown News publisher Tim Holt, and home restorers Bob and Roberta Rakela.

Challenges faced during this era included disinterest in maintaining central city neighborhoods by the city of Sacramento, whose redevelopment plans considered Victorias and bungalows "obsolete forms of housing," problems obtaining home loans from banks due to redlining, and the technical difficulties of repairing century-old homes by hand. The panel will share some of their stories of tenacity, creativity and celebration. They connected with each other and formed organizations to promote a better quality of life in Sacramento’s urban core, and protection for these historic neighborhoods, that have survived to the present day. Their efforts also marked the turning point for Sacramento’s central city, and facilitated its transition from a disused neighborhood targeted for demolition into the cultural and entertainment destination for our region, and home to thousands of Sacramentans willing to pay a premium to live among the restored architectural treasures that line Midtown streets.

The Preservation Roundtable will also feature presentations by Friends of the McClatchy Library about their new book Memories of McClatchy Library, Sacramento County Historical Society’s new book Daisy’s Legacy and upcoming Taste of History event, preservation project updates by City of Sacramento Preservation Director Roberta Deering, and updates about the Sacramento Intermodal Depot’s planned rehab and expansion by City of Sacramento Senior Architect Greg Taylor.

Sacramento Preservation Roundtable "Sacramento’s Urban Pioneers"

Saturday, December 8

9:00 AM-Noon

Midtown Village Cafe, 1827 I Street, Sacramento

Brunch, coffee, beer and wine are available for purchase. There is no price for admission and this event is open to the public.

The Sacramento Preservation Roundtable is a quarterly forum for local history and historic preservation organizations, hosted by Sacramento Old City Association. For more information about SOCA, visit

Note: The astute and cynical will note that a marketing organization called "Sacramento Regional Marketing Campaign" used the name "Urban Pioneers" as part of a campaign to attract Bay Area young professionals to Sacramento about ten years ago, in the wake of the dot-com bust. This earlier use dates from the mid-1970s, and the "pioneer" of that era was considerably less plastic, more crafty, and if the photos for this presentation were any indication, a lot hairier.