From the organization’s founding in 1854, and for the next fifteen years, the Sacramento Pioneer Association met regularly at several places, including J Street hotels, the County Court Room at Front and J Streets and the Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 firehouse on 8th Street, between J and K Streets.
In 1868, the Pioneers erected a place to call their own: the affectionately named Pioneer Hall, on Seventh Street, between J and K Streets, complete with offices, a meeting room and a library. Renowned Sacramento architect and Pioneer Association member Nathaniel Goodell oversaw construction at a cost of $14,000. Pioneers dedicated the building on January 4, 1869, followed by a grand banquet at the Golden Eagle Hotel, which offered such delicacies as lobster salad, green turtle soup, pig with apple jelly, English plum pudding and California wines.
Over the years, Pioneer Hall served many purposes. From a downstairs office, Nathaniel Goodell operated his architectural business. Funeral processions to honor deceased members formed at the hall, proceeded to Pioneer Grove at the City Cemetery and returned to the hall for adjournment. The Association rented space to the Grand Army of the Republic and the Odd Fellows. The Native Sons of the Golden West Sacramento Parlor was organized there, also the first Sacramento posts of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In succeeding years, Pioneer Hall bore witness to notable historic events. On October 1, 1879, Pioneers held a reception for former President Ulysses S. Grant. On May 2, 1891 Pioneer officers escorted President Benjamin Harrison from the train depot to the Capitol. The procession passed by the Hall, specially decorated for the occasion. In 1899, the Association wired the hall for electricity at a cost of $112.50. On May 19, 1903, at a ceremony in front of the hall, President Theodore Roosevelt accepted honorary membership in the Sacramento Pioneer Association.
Throughout the twentieth century, Pioneer Hall had several colorful tenants. In 1918, the Association donated space to the Sewing Ladies of the Red Cross for the duration of U.S. involvement in the First World War. Other occupants included a cigar store, a shoe shop, a barber, a dance studio and a saloon, the famous TNT Club, which was popular with servicemen during the Second World War. Later, TNT Club’s back room was populated at lunchtime by lawyers and judges.
The Sacramento Pioneer Association conducted extensive restoration and renovation of Pioneer Hall in 1987. Previously unreinforced masonry walls were brought up to earthquake code. Artisans recreated the 19th century Victorian façade and color scheme, and replaced the original balcony. Pioneers gathered at the hall on June 30, 1988, to rededicate the building. Most wore vintage costumes. Speeches, music, and a repast were enjoyed by all.
Pioneer Hall, a designated Sacramento historical landmark, celebrated its 150th year on January 4, 2019. The historic edifice, ideally located directly across the street from the Golden One Arena in Downtown Sacramento, remains a sturdy, well-maintained, beautiful and viable commercial building.
To learn more, go to the Publications page and order The Annals of the Sacramento Pioneer Association and The Restoration of Pioneer Hall.