A special Bay light falls on beautiful Benicia, on the north shore of the Carquinez Strait. Two U.S. citizens, Robert Semple and Thomas Larkin, bought the land from Mexican Army General Mariano Vallejo for $100 and the promise to name it for Vallejo’s wife in 1847. The next year a customer at Von Pfister’s Benicia waterfront store let slip the secret of the gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill. Benicia’s deep water harbor attracted Pacific Mail and Steamship Company, the first major California industry, the famous Matthew Turner shipyards, tanneries, and the Central Pacific Railroad, which made Benicia its transcontinental terminus. State legislators made the town their third state capital in 1853.
That oldest surviving capitol building still stands along with many historic buildings, including the stately structures of a U.S. military base that began with the Benicia Barracks in 1849 and continued to serve until 1964.