STEP BACK IN TIME

Let’s face it: 2020 isn’t going to wind up on anyone’s “Best Year Ever” list. If you’re frustrated with being stuck at home, why not escape from the troubles of the day with a relaxing day-trip that takes you back in time?

As one of the oldest cities in California, Benicia is home to a bevy of charming vintage architecture and historic landmarks, dating back to the gold rush, the Wild West, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

From the comfort and safety of your car, take this leisurely drive past some historic sites while still leaving time for a waterfront picnic along the Marina and a souvenir literary adventure from Bookshop Benicia.


You can download a hand-drawn driving map here.

First Stop: Bookshop Benicia

Before we start our tour, head over to Bookshop Benicia (located in the historic Stumm Jewelry Store building) for personalized recommendations on histories, biographies, or historical fiction and romance to bring home with you. Pick up your book selection with contactless pick-up.


You can get your book recommendation by contacting Bookshop Benicia here.


Grab a Picnic

The first stop on our tour also happens to offer delectable baked goods! One House Bakery has the best fresh-baked goodies for any picnic. Everything is made in-house from scratch, including artisanal breads, dessert pastries, and full family meals.


Try their Croissant Sandwich or their delicious Pot Pies. The choices are endless!

Order online or call 707.361.5919 during business hours to order. They are currently open Wednesday-Sunday from 8AM-6PM.

One House Bakery

918 First St, Benicia, CA 94510


Tour Benicia's Most Charming Historic Buildings

Now you’re ready for a scenic drive past vintage houses and historic landmarks, dating back to the gold rush. Here is a list of some highlights you definitely don’t want to miss.


Insider tips for getting around:

  • Most streets in Benicia are numbered or lettered, which helps with keeping your bearings as you explore.

  • You'll probably find the driving directions below more efficient than what you'd get from Google Maps.

(image courtesy of: Ron Reiring)

Southern Pacific Train Depot

101 First St, Benicia, CA 94510


Originally built in the mid-1890s, the depot was moved to this location in 1902. For many years, it served as the last stop before travelers on the Transcontinental Railroad boarded “one of the largest ferries in the world,” the Solano or Contra Costa Ferry, which carried them across the Carquinez Strait to Port Costa.


Today, the depot serves as a historic site and home to Benicia Main Street's visitor center, which is open for souvenirs.

The Union Hotel

401 First St, Benicia, CA 94510


The site of a recent episode of the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, The Union Hotel opened in 1880 as "The Solano House." Ghost stories abound in the hotel’s history, including that of “Disappointed Mary.” It has twelve historically decorated guestrooms, a restaurant, and a bar.


Directions from Southern Pacific Train Depot: (3 min drive)

  • Head north on First Street toward W D Street

  • Destination will be on the left

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park

115 W G St, Benicia, CA 94510


Benicia was California's third state capital and is home to the only state capitol building still standing outside of Sacramento. The California State Legislature convened here from 1853 to 1854. The buildings are not currently open for tours, but the grounds are open to explore.


Directions from The Union Hotel: (2 min drive)

  • Head north on First Street toward W G Street

  • Destination will be on the left

Fischer Hanlon House

115 W G St, Benicia, CA 94510

Once part of a gold rush-era hotel damaged in a fire, this building was salvaged, moved to its current location, and converted into an affluent private residence after 1858. Filled with period furnishings, the Fischer Hanlon House is part of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park and is occasionally open for tours. Stroll the grounds to see the carriage house and gardens with plants more than 100 years old.

An outstanding example of East Coast Federalist architecture, the house showcases the diffusion of different architectural styles during the gold rush.


Benicia State Capitol is adjacent to the Fischer Hanlon House.

Singler Barber Shop / Camellia Tea Room

828 First Street, Benicia, CA 94510

Built by the Singler family as a barbershop in 1894, the building gives a great snapshot of a typical wood frame commercial building in pre-1900 downtown Benicia. Utilized as a barbershop for nearly 50 years and then as a café, saloon, variety store and a card room, it was restored completely in 1989 and now houses the Camellia Tea Room.


Directions from the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park: (1 min drive)

  • Head north on First Street towards E H Street

  • Destination will be on the right, mid-block between East H and East I Street

(image courtesy of MARELBU)

St Paul's Episcopal Church

120 E J St, Benicia, CA 94510

This unusual church was built in 1859 by Scandinavian shipwrights from the Pacific Mail and Steamship Company. The nautical heritage is reflected in the extremely distinct ceiling, which resembles an inverted ship’s hull and is similar in design to the Norwegian Staves Churches.


Directions from the Singler Barber Shop / Camellia Tea Room: (1 min drive)

  • Head north on First Street toward E J Street

  • Turn right onto E J Street

  • Destination will be on the right

Riddell-Fish House

245 W K St, Benicia, CA 94510

Built circa 1890 by Franklin and Henrietta Riddell Fish, this is one of the largest and most impressive houses in Benicia. With its Queen Anne architecture, the building stands in interesting contrast to the middle and working class Italianate cottages that occupy the rest of the block.


Directions from St Paul's Episcopal Church: (2 min drive)

  • Head west on E J Street toward First Street

  • Cross First Street and turn right onto W Second Street

  • Turn left onto W K Street

  • Destination will be on the right

Frisbie-Walsh House

235 E L St, Benicia, CA 94510

View the oldest residence in Benicia with its original unaltered exterior in all its Gothic Revival style cottage glory. The Frisbie-Walsh House is a twin for General Vallejo's home in Sonoma and was built for his daughter.


Directions from the Riddell-Fish House: (3 min drive)

  • Head west on W K Street toward W Third Street

  • Turn right onto W Third Street

  • Head north onto E Third Street

  • Turn right onto Military Way

  • Head three blocks east to E Second Street

  • Turn right onto E Second Street

  • Turn left onto E L St

  • Destination will be on the left

Jefferson Street Mansion

1063 Jefferson St, Benicia, CA 94510

Built in 1861 and designated as the Captain’s Quarters, this fully restored three-story Benicia Arsenal building, surrounded by an acre of formal gardens and garden pavilions, is now used for private weddings and social events.


Directions from the Frisbie-Walsh House: (5 min drive)

  • Head east on E L Street toward E Third St

  • Turn left onto E Third Street toward Military East

  • Turn right onto Military East

  • Head east five blocks to the Benicia Arsenal

  • At the intersection of Jefferson, Adams and Grant Sts, turn left onto Jefferson Street

  • Cross Park Road

  • Destination will be on the left

Benicia Clock Tower Fortress

1189 Washington Street, Benicia, CA


Built in 1859 as a part of the U.S. military arsenal, Benicia's iconic clock tower was rocked by a fiery explosion in 1912. It survived but was reduced from a three-story building to the two-story structure you see today.

Made of native Benicia sandstone, the Clock Tower provided soldiers with a view of Suisun bay to the east, and the San Pablo bay to the west.


Directions from Jefferson Mansion: (2 min drive)

  • Head west on Jefferson Street toward Park Rd

  • Turn left onto Park Rd

  • Turn left onto Adams St

  • Slight left onto Washington Street (Johansen Square/Commandant’s Lane)

  • Clock Tower will be on the right, Commanding Officer’s Quarters will be on the left across a shared parking lot.

Commanding Officer's Quarters Mansion

1 Commandants Ln, Benicia, CA 94510


Take one look at this incredible residence, built for the Commander of the Benicia Arsenal in 1860, and it’s impossible not to imagine the military dress balls, afternoon teas, elaborate dinners, and holiday parties that were hosted here throughout history.


Located across the parking lot from the Benicia Clock Tower Fortress

Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns

2060 Camel Road, Benicia, CA 94510


In the 1850s and 1860s, the US Military experimented with the use of camels as pack animals. However, with the outbreak of the Civil War, the project was shelved, and 35 of the camels were shipped to the Benicia Arsenal to be sold. The camels were housed in the 1850s storehouse that is now known as the Camel Barns, the current home to Benicia Historical Museum.


The museum, which itself is designated a historic site, houses a variety of exhibits and displays that recount the history of the City of Benicia and the U.S. Army Arsenal.


Directions from Commanding Officer's Quarters Mansion

  • Take Washington Street to Adams Street

  • Slight right onto Adams St.

  • Turn right onto Park Rd

  • Turn right onto Camel Rd

  • Turn right to stay on Camel Rd

  • Destination will be on the right


Benicia is one of the oldest cities in California, and every corner is filled with stories from the past. This list is just scratching the surface of all the incredible history Benicia has to offer. If you'd like to learn more, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

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Visit Benicia
250 East L Street
Benicia, CA 94510
(707) 746-4202
edev@ci.benicia.ca.us

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