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First State Capitol Building of California

Time Capsule-Historic Images and Recollections (Historic Events)


From 1849-1851, San Jose was California's first state capital. The first Assembly met in an unassuming two-story adobe house which was unfinished in December of 1849, requiring the Senate to meet elsewhere, at Isaac Branham's house at the corner of the modern-day Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez [1; 2; 3]. Two historical markers, one in the Plaza and one across Market Street from the Plaza, are dedicated to the site of the capitol building [2; 3]. The adobe statehouse itself was located between the present-day San Jose Museum of Art and the Fairmont Hotel [1].

An 1899 replica of California's first state capitol building (image from the city of San Jose)
Historic marker along South Market Street (image from Historical Marker Database)
Engraving of the original Capitol Building (image from California State Library)


San Jose became California's first state capital in 1849, after the Constitutional Convention in Monterey; it would only retain this distinction for two years. Unfortunately, the capitol building (a 40 by 60 foot two-story adobe house) was not yet complete when the members of the State Legislature arrived in December of 1849 to a muddy, flooded San Jose with inadequate hotel accommodations [1; 3]. The Assembly met in a finished room on the second story of the capitol, but the Senate had to meet elsewhere, at Isaac Branham's house at the corner of the modern-day Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez [1; 2; 3]. Possibly because of the weather and the accommodations, because of the lack of other entertainment in San Jose at the time, or even because flooding had contaminated the local drinking water, the 1849 Assembly and Senate went down in history as the "Legislature of a Thousand Drinks," a term attributed to Senator Thomas Jefferson Green of Sacramento, who ended each session with, "Let's have a drink! Let's have a thousand drinks!" Swayed by drier conditions and monetary offers, the State Legislature offered to move the capital to Vallejo in 1851, moving again in 1854 to Sacramento [1; 3].


1. Carlson, Eric. "Soft Underbelly of San Jose." Accessed December 28, 2016.
2. Kohnen, Mathew H. "First State Capitol Building." Historical Marker Database. November 17, 2007. Accessed December 17, 2016.
3. Swackhamer, Barry. "First State Capital." Historical Marker Database. February 14, 2012. Accessed December 17, 2016.

172 South Markert Street
San Jose, CA 95113
  • Political and Diplomatic History
  • Urban History
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This location was created on 2016-12-30 by Sara Marian .   It was last updated on 2016-12-30 by Sara Marian .

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