January 22, 2007
Sacramento State Bulletin

A brief history of campus street names

Photo: Sacramento State’s Sinclair Way and Moraga Way have a connection to the area’s history.
Sacramento State’s Sinclair Way and Moraga Way have a connection to the area’s history.

History lessons are taught in many of Sacramento State’s classrooms, but even street names can teach a lesson or two. Key players in Sacramento’s history are represented at Sacramento State—not only in the annals of the Library but in moniker-inspired street names.

The University’s original street names, Jed Smith Drive and Judah Way (since renamed State University Drive), as well as Sinclair Road and Moraga Way, were inspired by men connected with early California history in this area.

Jedidiah Smith was believed to be the first American to cross the continent to California’s coast at a time when it was part of Mexico. In 1827, motivated by his fur trading company’s need for beaver pelts, Smith and 11 other men traveled from St. Louis to the San Gabriel Mission. From that region, he and his crew journeyed north, where they eventually crossed the American River, presumably somewhere between the campus grounds and Folsom. The news of Smith’s trip to California inspired other American trappers and, later on, farmer-immigrants.

Theodore Judah contributed to California’s expansion through his role in the development of the railroad system. Judah took on the task of building the railroad from Sacramento to Folsom in 1854-56. After that, he organized financial support for the Central Pacific Railroad, which ultimately received the government contract to build the western half of the first continental railroad.

Southern Pacific Railroad emerged from the company Judah formed, and SP Railroad later built the railroad tracks that form the western boundary of today’s campus.

Perpendicular to those railroad tracks is Sinclair Way, the street that runs east-west from the railroad to the back of Eureka Hall. John Sinclair, for whom it was named, was a farming partner of John Sutter and lived on the property on which the campus is located. Sinclair was also known for his involvement in the search for and rescue of the Donner Party, as well as taking in several survivors from the doomed expedition shortly after they were found.

Explorer Gabriel Moraga’s ventures into the Sacramento Valley were the inspiration for Sacramento State’s Moraga Way, the road that runs north and south beginning at Yosemite Hall and ending at the Central Plant. Moraga began his journey in San Jose and arrived in Sacramento just below the present site of Auburn by way of the Sierra Foothills and then the Calaveras, Mokelumne and Cosumnes Rivers.

There is one street on the campus, however, that has never had a “name” attached to it. The Esplanade, which runs from J Street into the north entrance of campus, stands alone as the only Sacramento State street never to have been named for a person. The term “esplanade” usually refers to a walkway or road alongside a body of water, and although The Esplanade is not situated next to the American River, it is located nearby.


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
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