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Early Site History

Older view of the Sacramento Valley Station

Until 1911, all freight and passenger trains were conveyed across a wooden trestle “H Street Bridge” that served a grand wooden station originally built by the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s, Sacramento’s second rail station – The Arcade Station – directly north of the large shops buildings east of present day Interstate 5. The area south of the shops buildings area of the site was largely a swampy lake extended just north of I Street where now occupied by the current station. The lake originally named Sutter’s Lake when in a pristine condition up through the 1860’s, but after the founding of the railroad works, a dramatic deterioration began. Finally, after neglect dumping of refuse from railroad operations, its quality had become a severe public nuisance to the city and by then was pejoratively referred as China Slough for the Chinese community that had established along its banks at the edge of I Street.  This swamp was unwelcoming gateway feature to the city from the  now remote Arcade Station, and newspapers of the time chronicle the pleas from the public to officials of the city and the Southern Pacific Railroad to fill in the swamp and build a new station fitting the capitol city and directly adjacent to the commerce center.

Finally, in 1908, the railroad began dredging the sand from the American River, a process that took over two years to complete, filling the water body to depths in places to forty feet.  And despite years of repeated public urging for a new station, it was new competition from the newly formed Western Pacific Railroad and its new station that opened in 1910 at J Street and 19th Street (now a restaurant) which awakened the Espee to the challenge to its dominate monopoly in the city and region. The Western Pacific urged the railroad to begin planning a new station complex on the newly filled site that would counter the incursion by the new transcontinental line and agreements were in place by 1917 to begin work on the station in earnest.