In Mexican-owned California, Sutter’s Fort was an impressive sight rising above the landscape: a high-walled trading post, a beacon in the wilderness visible for many miles out, a refuge for hundreds of weary overlanders in covered wagons. Famous by the mid-1840s, its glory days were short. When its founder departed in 1849, his dreams crushed by the lawless chaos of the California Gold Rush, the adobe structure began to decay. By 1855 it was in ruins, a forgotten place whose very existence had once been instrumental in bringing California into the Union.

Decades later, it was restored as a monument to the pioneers who had once found succor inside its walls; the first large-scale reconstruction of an adobe structure anywhere in the United States, and the largest memorial dedicated entirely to the memory of America’s pioneer period.

This is the history of the Fort from 1839 to the present, with short biographies of its early-days employees and the remarkable men and women who drove their wagons to its gates—the settlers who brought American values and culture, and their personal skills, to help develop the Golden State. In 1847 Sutter’s Fort sheltered the devastated Donner Party survivors…and in later years, the restored Fort sheltered refugees from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Sutter’s Fort attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually from all over the world—and occasionally, the very famous come. Queen Elizabeth II scheduled it as a must-see during her 1983 tour of California. Rise, Ruin & Restoration is easy to read and answers many questions about the history of this famous site, including this one: What great discovery in the 20th century changed the ways in which sightseers experience Sutter’s Fort today?

© 2019 by Cheryl Anne Stapp. 

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