On Wednesday, August 15 at 7:00 PM, Time Tested Books (1114 21st Street, Sacramento) hosts a book signing and talk for my new book, "Sacramento’s K Street: Where Our City Was Born."
From its early existence as a path from the Sacramento River to Sutter’s Fort until the present day, K Street was the axis upon which the city of Sacramento turned. From its beginnings as a riverboat dock and nexus for stagecoach lines, K Street grew into the city’s main business street. Fortunes were made and lost along K Street in the tumultuous decades of disaster and ambition that followed the Gold Rush. This era ended with the completion of America’s first transcontinental railroad, a project started almost 150 years ago at the foot of K Street. But this was not the end of K Street’s story–it was just a prelude.
As Sacramento’s first generation of entrepeneurs moved on, a new generation took their place, creating business institutions including banks, department stores, grocery stores and hotels. Waves of immigrants came to Sacramento to find work and created their own businesses, with K Street as the center of a diverse downtown. Sacramento’s Chinatown, or "Yee Fow," was just north of K Street, and our Japantown, or "O-fu," was just to the south. Other ethnic neighborhoods, each with their own businesses, churches and cultural institutions, made K Street a remarkably diverse, lively and engaging place. It was a center of commerce and entertainment, but also an urban neighborhood that thousands called home.
In the early 20th century, K Street became the hub of a network of interurban railroads spanning from Chico to Stockton and Oakland. A second transcontinental railroad, Western Pacific, arrived at the far end of K Street. Visitors could choose from a variety of hotels, restaurants, theaters, department stores, arcades and other entertainment. They could even visit the restored Sutter’s Fort on K Street’s bucolic and tree-lined eastern end. At the same time, Sacramento’s new merchant class, living on the eastern end of K Street, built new neighborhoods, including the city’s first suburban tracts, all connected to K Street by streetcar. Their new Sacramento Chamber of Commerce held celebrations and public festivals on K Street while planning a future of growth outside the city limits.
K Street was the hub of Sacramento’s urban culture. K Street’s central location made it the natural choice for citywide celebrations, marches, and public events, from the city’s earliest days. The sounds of jazz spilled from Sacramento nightclubs and dance halls, vaudeville theaters and burlesque houses. Prohibition in the 1920s muted these tones but did not still them, as Sacramento gained a reputation as a place where alcohol still flowed freely. Restaurants and cafes, ranging from inexpensive eateries for workers to fine dining for senators and governors, were found here too. Vaudeville stage acts were slowly overtaken by a succession of amazing motion picture palaces, culminating in the Alhambra Theatre at the eastern end of K Street at 31st Street, a landmark so impressive that the street where it sat was renamed in the theater’s honor.
The book ends with the fight to save the Alhambra Theatre in the early 1970s, and explores the complex and often misunderstood reasons why K Street fell from its status as the city’s heart.
Most photographs were provided by the Center for Sacramento History, and some from private collections. Sources included interviews with Sacramentans who shared their memories of K Street, theses, government reports, newspaper stories, autobiographies and archaeological reports. Secondary sources included works of local history, like Sacramento County Historical Society’s Golden Notes series, and academic treatises on urban history and the Progressive Era, in order to better connect Sacramento’s urban heritge to the national narrative.
In addition to the book’s subject matter, I will also share some stories that couldn’t fit into the book–including a few fascinating tales (and photographs) discovered immediately after the book went to print! Copies will be available for sale.
Who: Presentation/book signing by William Burg, author of Sacramento’s K Street: Where Our City Was Born.
When: Wednesday, August 15, 7:00PM
Where: Time Tested Books, 1117 21st Street, Sacramento