• Kids' Zone
  • Educational Resources
  • Glossary
  • History & Government
  • Capitol Park
  • Architectural Tour
  • Special Exhibits
  • California Governors
  • First Ladies

Learn about California and the Capitol

Do you think your voice doesn’t matter because you’re a kid? Do you think only adults who vote can change things here in California? Think again.

In 1965, an eleven-year-old named Paul Buzzo saw a television commercial that quoted a law that said it was illegal to toss something burning out of a vehicle and onto the road. He realized that it wasn’t the road that needed protection from burning material, because the road doesn’t burn; it was the grass and other flammable material near the road that needed the protection. Paul’s mother recommended that he write to his Assemblyman, who took Paul’s suggestion to the legislature. The law was then changed to include the “adjoining area” of any road or highway, and that section of the Vehicle Code (23111) was renamed the “Paul Buzzo Act.”

Here in the Kids’ Zone, you can learn more about the history of California and our State Capitol, and better prepare yourself to help enhanced California’s quality of life, perhaps through a suggestion of new or improved legislation.

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Additional Educational Materials

There is far more information available about the Capitol and what goes on inside than is found on this site. By clicking here, you’ll find a number of other useful websites to continue your educational journey, including teacher materials and lesson plans, state curriculum frameworks, and a collection of historical images. Please note that we are not responsible for the content of these sites because they are developed and maintained by other organizations.

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Glossary of Terms

Ionic columns at the State Capitol Understanding the terminology used for architecture, art, history, and legislation can be the fundamental key to understanding their unique relationship and significance to California, the Capitol Building, and citizens today and in the decades to come. So is it the abacus that’s found between the triglyphs in the frieze section of the entablature of classical Greek Doric temples, or is that the metope? Answers to this type of question can be found within this handy glossary of architectural terms associated with the State Capitol. (Answer: It’s the metope. The abacus is found between the architrave and the aechinus in the capital of a column.)

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California History & Government Materials

Here you will learn ways in which you can become an active participant in shaping California’s future including: finding your legislator, a citizens’ guide, information on the Assembly, Senate, Governors, and First Ladies, and historic California legislation.

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Take a Tour of Capitol Park

California’s State Capitol is surrounded by 12 city blocks of one of the most luxurious and expansive State Capitol grounds in the nation. Beautification of Capitol Park began as early as 1869 with plantings from the far corners of the world. Pathways meander throughout the park, passing hundreds of trees, some of which are the largest in the state. Flowering shrubs, a small pond, rose gardens, and colorful flower beds are surrounded by grassy, well-manicured lawns inviting visitors to enjoy their lush surroundings or just sit and relax on the many benches. Memorials and statuary are placed throughout the park. Some of the memorials are living memorials while others are unique structures honoring fallen heroes or historic figures. This section includes a virtual tour of the park's major attractions and how it's evolved since 1860.

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Architectural Virtual Tour

California’s State Capitol is constructed in a beautiful, neo-classical design. Take a virtual tour and see many interior features such as unique stained glass renditions of the California state seal; California’s state flower, the California poppy, portrayed in marble mosaic floors; and an awe-inspiring view of the interior dome from both the first and second floors.

The virtual tour also includes exterior architectural features such as statuary and ornately designed pediments and portico. The West entrance portico is surrounded by towering Corinthian columns, a Greek style pediment with a triangular roof, and statuary. The East Annex entrance is adorned with cast aluminum panels that incorporate the Art Deco and Art Moderne movements echoing the ideals of science, industry, natural resources, commerce, and transportation.

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Special Exhibits

Alongside the recreated historic offices of the Governor, Secretary of State, and Treasurer, the Capitol Museum maintains two exhibit rooms in which rotating exhibits are displayed. These exhibits center around the city of Sacramento, the state of California, and the State Legislature. While most exhibits last for one year, special, short-term exhibits are sometimes installed.

Previous exhibit themes include the Dust Bowl’s effect on California and the Legislature’s response to it, and California’s role in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. Special exhibits have displayed contemporary Native American art and the art of retired Capitol employees. Here you can find more information on the Museum’s current exhibit as well as previous ones.

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California Governors

As head of the executive branch of state government, the Governor is vested with the supreme executive power of the State of California and has the duty to ensure that the laws of the state are faithfully executed. Thirty-eight different men have served as governors of California, beginning with Peter Burnett, who was elected in 1849, nearly a year before California was admitted as a state!

While some of our chief executives are well-known, such as Earl Warren, Ronald Reagan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, other governors led interesting lives, both within and out of the Capitol. Did you know that Milton Latham served only five days as governor in 1860? Until Austrian-born Schwarzenegger was sworn into office in 2003, John Downey was the only governor to have been born outside of the United States, in Ireland in 1827.

Although better known for his role in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, Leland Stanford (pictured above) was also governor. And did you know that Romualdo Pacheco, the twelfth governor, was not only the first governor to have been born in California, but the only governor to have claimed to have lassoed a grizzly bear?

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California First Ladies

More than just the governors’ wives, California's first ladies have made important contributions to the state and its people. Maria Downey (John) felt that one of her duties as First Lady was to help the less fortunate. Jane Stanford, pictured at left, with her husband Leland founded Leland Stanford Junior University in memory of their beloved son, and she oversaw the University’s operations until her death in 1905. In 1900, she donated the Stanford Mansion in Sacramento to the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento for the “nurture, care and maintenance of homeless children.”

Mary Pacheco (Romualdo) was an engaging conversationalist and was known for holding some of the best literary salons in San Francisco and Sacramento. Nina Warren (Earl) made it a point to cook meals for needy families. Gloria Deukmejian (George) organized a statewide awards program to recognize outstanding volunteer achievement for Volunteer Centers of California. Gayle Wilson (Pete) first established an office for the First Lady in the Capitol where she worked on early health and math/science education issues. Sharon Davis (Gray) created the Governor’s Book Fund to provide grants to school libraries. Maria Shriver (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was instrumental in creating the California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts.

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Visit The Museum

California State Capitol Museum
10th and L Streets
State Capitol
Room B-27
1315 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 324-0333
Driving directions & map

Volunteer information

Weekdays 7:30 am - 6 pm
Weekends 9 am - 5 pm
Admission is free
Tours available hourly 9 am - 4 pm
Groups by reservation

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