Capitals of California

How many capitals has California had? More than I knew. I might have been able to list three or four, but seven? Who knew?

The California State Library knows. Here is a link to a page on Previous Capitals — and Capitols — of California. (A capital is a city, the seat of government. A capitol is a building, where the legislators and lawmakers find their seats.)

Here they are:

Monterey: 1774-1849. The capital of Mexican California and the site of the Constitutional Convention.

San Jose: 1849-1851. The first legislature met in San Jose.

Vallejo: 1852-1853. For only a few days in those two years, with Sacramento in between.

Benicia: 1853-1854. For just one year. The Benicia capitol building is a State Historic Park.

Sacramento: 1852-present day. After all that moving around, they finally settled on Sacramento.

But wait — that’s only six capitals. What was the seventh?

San Francisco: 1862. The legislators adjourned to SF when flood waters became to much for them. Sacramento was inundated during the Great Flood of 1862 as the American and Sacramento Rivers overflowed their banks.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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2 Responses to Capitals of California

  1. norbertdall says:

    Dear Ms. Leek,

    Good morning. Thank you for your history notes.

    The note on the capitals of Alta California – including (thank you) San Francisco during the 1,000 year flood of the partly filled geotectonic California Trench/Central Valley of 1862 – reminds one that California, considered as a whole, actually has had at least five other political capitals in its Euro-American history:

    • Loreto, from c. 1697 to 1777, as the capital of the Province of the Californias [before the capital was moved in the latter year to Monterey in Alta California, since 1850 in the US], and then until 1829/1830 as the capital of Baja California;

    • La Paz, the capital of Baja California beginning in 1829 (see exception below) and the capital of Baja California Sur since 1974; between January and May, 1854, William Walker’s expedition temporarily deemed La Paz to be the capital of the “Republic of Lower California”/aka “Republic of Sonora”/aka “Republic of the two Stars”;

    • San Antonio, a settlement adjacent to La Paz, was temporarily (in c.1830) the capital of Baja California;

    • Ensenada (de Todos Santos), from 1882 to ?1914, as the regional capitol for the northern part of Baja California when it was deemed a political territory of Mexico; and,

    • Mexicali, the capital of Baja California [Norte]) since c. 1915.

    I do not know what William Walker’s expedition in 1854 temporarily deemed Cabo San Lucas to be the “capital” during the retreat of the would-be “Republic of Lower California”.

    Thank you.



    Norbert Dall Co-Investigator/Co-Author, On the Coasts of the Californias Project 930 Florin Road, Suite 200 Sacramento, California 95831 USA Telephone (direct): +1.916.392.0283 Mobile Telephone: +1.916.716.4126 (please call this number during the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic) Email:


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