November 10, 2004

Class projects lead to books on
East Sacramento and Oak Park history

Photo: Ronald Reagan and his son, Ronald Jr. (“Skip”), in 1971. They’re in the yard of the East Sacramento home the family rented while Reagan was governor.
Ronald Reagan and his son, Ronald Jr. (“Skip”), in 1971. They’re in the yard of the East Sacramento home the family rented while Reagan was governor.

Archival photos and lively narrative bring the history of two Sacramento neighborhoods to life in new books by California State University, Sacramento historian Lee Simpson and her students.

The books, East Sacramento and Sacramento’s Oak Park, explore the streetcar beginnings of the area around McKinley Park and of the city’s first suburb of Oak Park, which was officially annexed to the city in 1911. They’re part of a series by Acradia Publishing called Images of America.

“This was really a super way to introduce undergraduates to public history,” says Simpson, who led the research done by two undergraduate classes and then edited the final book text. “These students were really engaged – they went above and beyond expectations.”

Students in a special research seminar worked with the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center (SAMCC), St. Hope and various historical associations to gather information.

The students found photos dating to the 1890s, and were able to include about 200 of them in each book. They were also able to compile detailed histories of each neighborhood.

Photo: The Alhambra Theatre at 31st and J streets opened in 1927 and was razed in 1973.
The Alhambra Theatre at 31st and J streets opened in 1927 and was razed in 1973.

“We found quite a few gems,” Simpson says. Among them are photos of Sacramento in its early years, of then-Governor Ronald Reagan when he lived in East Sacramento, and of the Oak Park riots in the 1960s. There’s a photo of an electric car developed by East Sacramentan A.R. Meister in 1910, and photos from Oak Park of the state fair and the city’s very own amusement park called Joyland. There are also photos of efforts to contain early fires in the neighborhoods, and details about the city’s early Jewish Cemetery in East Sacramento.

The East Sacramento book has just recently been printed and the Oak Park book is scheduled to be printed by Dec. 13. Both are expected to be sold in local bookstores, with net proceeds going to SAMCC.

More information is available from Arcadia Publishing at (888) 313-2665 or www.arcadiapublishing.com. Lee Simpson can be reached at (916) 278-6628. Additional media assistance and high-resolution historic photos from the books are available from the Sacramento State public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu