Tehama Block Building

The site of the Tehama Block on the northeast corner of Front and J Streets in Old Sacramento is an historic one. Pierson Barton Reading was the original owner of this choice lot, purchased from his friend John Augustus Sutter, Jr. on December 30, 1848. At the time, any address along Front Street between I and M Streets was considered prime real estate, due to its close proximity to commercial activity along the riverfront docks.

Several different structures occupied the site between 1849 and 1852. The earliest were single story structures, most likely made of canvas stretched over a wood frame, as were many of Sacramento City's first buildings. The 1980s edifice replicates one under construction in January of 1850.

Known as the Tehama Block, it was a wood-sided, 34 x 63 foot two-story building designed in the Greek Revival style. Woodcut views, published in the Steamer Edition of The Sacramento Union for March 29, 1851 and in The Daily Union for March 31, 1851, show it completed in place, with sidewalks covered by awnings.

The Tehama Block was built by Major Samuel C. Bruce of Sacramento and Teschemacher & Company of San Francisco for $36,000. It rented for $3,600 per month. During its short lifetime (1850-1851), numerous business ventures were squeezed into the building.

These included stores that sold wholesale and retail provisions, groceries, clothing, stationery, newspapers, books, maps, and miners' supplies, plus offices that housed auctioneers, land agents, steamboat agents and exchange brokers. The rapid succession of various enterprises was typical of the fast pace and competitive spirit of the era.

On the second floor of the Tehama Block, Joseph Grant operated the "True Delta Depot." Grant was the sole California agent for the True Delta, a daily newspaper published in New Orleans and placed aboard the mail steamer bound for the Pacific. The Depot also carried periodicals and books from throughout the United States, merchandise always popular with West Coast residents hungry for news from home.

The Tehama Block was in existence for less than two years. Plans to tear down the wood structure and replace it with a brick one were underway during the summer of 1851. The building was completed and occupied by September of 1851 and became known as "Bruce's Building" or "Bruce's Block."

The California Department of Parks and Recreation moved the Sacramento District State Parks administrative offices (today known as the Capital District) into second floor offices in the Tehama Block in the fall of 1990. An interpretive concession, Skalet Family Jewelers, occupies the first floor.

The reconstruction of the historic Tehama Block Building represents one phase of the planned development of Old Sacramento State Historic Park's "
1849 Scene," the area bounded by I and J Streets on the north and south, and by Front Street and an alley on the west and east.