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Stories from the valley

A Relaxing Stroll Through Sacramento’s Old City Cemetery

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

Downtown Sacramento is abuzz with exciting activities, but if you’re seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle, a visit to the Historic Old City Cemetery could be just the thing. The abundant trees and lovely landscaping create a parklike setting, with the added bonus of muffling much of the noise from the nearby streets. As you wander the many paths crisscrossing the cemetery’s twenty-five-acres, you’ll hear birdsong and the rustle of leaves created by scampering squirrels.

Three gardens grace the grounds. Although my husband and I visited in early fall, there were still some cheery blooms in the Historic Rose Garden.

As I ambled down the rows, I was filled with respect for those who helped settle our great state. As you might expect, some of their stories are sad, such as the Franklins, who lost all six of their children and memorialized them with a set of headstones adorned with little lambs.

Other early Californians lived long lives and made lasting contributions. Mark Hopkins, one of the Central Pacific’s “Big Four,” helped bring about the Transcontinental Railroad that connected East and West. His monument beneath a trio of towering palm trees is one of the most impressive.

I experienced a wave of patriotism as I read inscriptions to the brave men and women who proudly served in our country’s armed forces over the years. A plot memorializing Civil War veterans boasts an impressive statue of a soldier high above.

As the daughter of a career firefighter, I was drawn to the Volunteer Firemen’s plot, the only one of its kind maintained west of the Mississippi. A big brass bell hangs at the entrance to the raised area. I can imagine selfless men answering its call as they rushed to save the first homes and businesses in the city. Some tour guides choose one lucky person to ring the bell.

The Old City Cemetery is located at 1000 Broadway in Sacramento, just off Highway 50, and is open from 7 am-7 pm daily. Brochures for self-guided tours are available at the kiosk just inside the main entrance. Guided tours are available, with a small donation suggested. If you’d like to book a tour, you’ll find more information here.

After your restful time strolling through the Old City Cemetery, you can enjoy an excellent meal at Selland’s Market Café, located across the street from the main entrance. You can choose from wood-fired pizzas, salads, burgers, and warm or cold sandwiches.