Benicia boasts four museums where you can discover artifacts and hear stories from Benicia's colorful past – the Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, the Benicia Fire Museum and the Fischer-Hanlon House (part of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park).
Other History-Related Activities
Downtown Historical Walking Tour: It's easy to visit the historically significant sites in downtown Benicia on foot. You can pick up a "Historic Downtown Benicia Walking Tour" brochure at the offices of Benicia Main Street, the Benicia Historical Museum, or the Benicia Chamber of Commerce. Produced by the Benicia Historical Society, the tour points out 25 different locations within a few blocks of each other, including the Southern Pacific Depot, the former site of author Jack London's favorite hangout while he lived in Benicia, The Union Hotel, the Pony Express stop, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and the Frisbie Walsh House, the oldest residence in Benicia.
Self-guided Historic Homes Walking Tour: The Benicia Historical Society has also produced brochures called "The Mills Act Walking Tour I" and "The Mills Act Walking Tour II" (also available at the above locations) that each showcase seven different historic homes.
Docent-led Historic Homes Tour: Each year, the Benicia Historical Society sponsors a historic homes tour, either in May or December.
Benicia Fire Museum, 900 East Second Street: The museum houses many treasures of fire service equipment and hundreds of related items, including the "Phoenix," an 1820s double decker hand-pumper requiring 45 men to operate – one of the first fire engines to arrive in California in 1847. The museum is open the first three Sundays of the month, from 1 to 4 p.m. Guided tours are available by appointment for groups, schools, and individuals. Call the museum to make arrangements. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. (707) 745-1688.
Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, 115 West G Street: Benicia was the site of California's third seat of government and served as the state capitol for 13 months during 1853 and 1854. Its classically designed capitol building was built in just three months from bricks and architectural materials salvaged from abandoned ships in San Francisco Bay. The building, with its formidable white columns, is the historic anchor to the downtown.
The park is open Thursday, 12:00 to 4:00 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., for self-guided tours, California State Parks Annual Day Use Parking Pass sales, purchases in the small gift shop or to make arrangements for reserved school or group tours. Please call before your visit for updated tour times, additional tour dates, or to reserve a school or group tour. Tickets are $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for youth ages 6-17 years; ages 5 years and under are free. (707) 745-3385.
Fischer-Hanlon House, 115 West G Street (part of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park): The house was originally a hotel on another site in town, and after extensive fire damage, Joseph and Catherine Fischer moved and remodeled the building for their home in 1858. The house was occupied by successive generations of the family for 110 years until it was donated to the State of California in 1968. It has been restored as a completely furnished home representative of middle-class living in the late 1800s in Benicia. The Victorian garden features heirloom varieties of trees and flowers, including a wisteria plant over 100 years old.
The Fischer-Hanlon House is open for guided tours on the first Sunday and third Saturday of each month at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and all other Sundays from 12:00 to 4 p.m for guided tours by request. It is also open the third Thursday of each month for tours at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tours are limited to seven visitors on a first-come, first-served basis and are lead by docents. Additional tours are available with a reservation. (707) 745-3385.
Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, 2060 Camel Road: Benicia made an unusual contribution to U.S. Military history in the 1850s and 1860s. During that time the Army experimented with the use of camels as pack animals. However, because of 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 museum houses a variety of exhibits and displays recounting the history of both the City of Benicia and the U.S. Army Arsenal. Museum hours are 1 to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Tours for school groups and for adults and senior groups are by appointment. (707) 745-5435.
Next: Historical Sites »