Benicia's Proud Military Past
Military operations played a significant role in Benicia's history, from 1849 to 1964 and many reminders of its martial history remain.Most prominent is the Benicia Arsenal, east of East Military and south of Oak Road. In 1849, Benicia's founders gave 345 acres of land near the Carquinez Strait to the army. One year later, the Arsenal became the first ordnance supply depot on the West Coast, supplying equipment and munitions for conflicts from the Civil War through the Korean War. The Arsenal is home to the following historic attractions:
Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns, 2060 Camel Road: The museum houses a variety of exhibits and displays recounting the history of both the City of Benicia and the U.S. Army Arsenal. The museum encompasses four buildings, including Stone Hall, which contains many permanent exhibits, as well as special exhibits, such as a recent one commemorating the Boy's Scout's centennial anniversary. The Silas Casey building is home to an industrial exhibit that recalls Benicia's past as the site of canneries, shipbuilding, shipping and railroad transportation. Museum hours are 1 to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Ticket prices are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for seniors and students. Ages 5 and under are free. (707) 745-5435
The Clock Tower Fortress, 1189 Washington Street: Built in 1859, this sandstone military bastion was strategically built atop Army Point to control the key passageway of Carquinez Strait to the gold mines of the interior and was designed to protect the post from Indian attacks, although the "Old Fort" never fired a shot in anger, even during the alarms of Civil War days. It is located in the Arsenal and is available for the public to rent for special events through the City's Parks and Community Services Department.
Commanding Officer's Quarters Mansion, 1 Commandant's Lane: Built in 1860 by Col. Julian McAllister, the two-story, 20-room Greek Revival mansion was used as a residence for the Commander of the Benicia Arsenal. Now owned by the City of Benicia, it is listed on the National Register of Historical Buildings. The Quarters was recently restored by the City of Benicia and is located in the Arsenal across the parking lot from the Clock Tower Fortress.
Jefferson Street Mansion, 1063 Jefferson Street: Built in 1861 and designated as the Captain's Quarters, this fully restored three-story Arsenal building, surrounded by an acre of formal gardens and garden pavilions, is used for weddings and social events. The mansion has received the prestigious California Heritage Council Preservation Award. For more information visit www.jeffersonstreetmansion.com; to make an appointment to visit the privately owned mansion, call (707) 746-0684.
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