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City of Benicia
Portuguese Hall of Benicia (cropped) (cropped).jpg
Benicia, CA USA - panoramio (13) (cropped).jpg
USA-Benicia-Clock Tower-14.jpg
Benicia, CA USA - panoramio (42) (cropped).jpg
USA-Benicia-942 Jackson Street-3.jpg
Top: Benicia Capitol (left), Portuguese Hall of Benicia (right); middle: view from the Carquinez Strait; bottom: Benicia Arsenal Clocktower (left), Downtown Benicia (middle), Old Arsenal Blacksmith.
"It's better in Benicia!"
Location of Benicia in Solano County, California
Location of Benicia in Solano County, California
Benicia, California is located in the United States
Benicia, California
Benicia, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County Solano
Incorporated March 27, 1850
 • Total 14.12 sq mi (36.57 km2)
 • Land 12.81 sq mi (33.19 km2)
 • Water 1.31 sq mi (3.39 km2)  17.75%
26 ft (8 m)
 • Total 27,131
 • Density 2,117.46/sq mi (817.56/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Code
Area code 707
FIPS code 06-05290
GNIS feature IDs 0277472, 2409833

Benicia ( bə-NEE-shə beh-NEE-sia) is a waterside city in Solano County, California, located in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. It served as the capital of California for nearly thirteen months from 1853 to 1854. The population was 26,997 at the 2010 United States Census. The city is located along the north bank of the Carquinez Strait. Benicia is just east of Vallejo and across the strait from Martinez. Steve Young, elected in November 2020, is the mayor.


The City of Benicia was founded on May 19, 1847, by Dr. Robert Semple, Thomas O. Larkin, and Comandante General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, on land sold to them by General Vallejo in December 1846. It was named for the General's wife, Francisca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo. The General intended that the city be named "Francisca" after his wife, but this name was dropped when the former city of "Yerba Buena" changed its name to "San Francisco". So Sra. Vallejo's second given name was used instead. In his memoirs, William Tecumseh Sherman contended that Benicia was "the best natural site for a commercial city" in the region.

Benicia was the third site selected to serve as the California state capital, and its newly constructed city hall was California's capitol from February 11, 1853, to February 25, 1854. Soon after the legislature was moved to the courthouse in Sacramento, which has remained the state capital ever since. The restored capitol is part of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, and is the only building remaining of the state's early capitols, which were in San Jose and Vallejo. Benicia was also the county seat of Solano County until 1858, when that was moved to Fairfield.

The original campus of Mills College was founded in Benicia in 1852 as the Young Ladies Seminary, and was the first women's college west of the Rockies. Before moving to Oakland in 1871, it was located on West I Street, just north of First Street.

On June 5, 1889, the legendary prize fight between James J. Corbett and Joe Choynski was held on a barge off the coast of Benicia. The match lasted 28 rounds, and is now commemorated by a plaque near Southampton Bay.

From 1860-1861, Benicia was indirectly involved in the Pony Express. When riders missed their connection with a steamer in Sacramento, they would continue on to Benicia and cross over to Martinez via the ferry. One of the earliest companies in California, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, established a major shipyard in Benicia in the 19th century. The prolific shipbuilder Matthew Turner, formed the Matthew Turner Shipyard at Benicia in 1883. Benicia became an important wheat storage and shipping site. It was also the site of the United States Army's Benicia Arsenal.

Map of railroad connections to Benicia and the San Francisco Bay area 1885
Railroad connections to Benicia in 1885
Southern Pacific RR Depot Benicia, CA 1902
1902 SPRR rail ferry depot in Benicia

In 1879, the Central Pacific Railroad re-routed the Sacramento-Oakland portion of its transcontinental line, establishing a major railroad ferry across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to Port Costa. The world's largest ferry, the Solano, later joined by the even larger Contra Costa, carried entire trains across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to Port Costa, from whence they continued on to the Oakland Pier.

In 1901, the world's first long-distance powerline crossing over Carquinez Strait was built. After California's wheat output dropped in the early 20th Century and especially after the Southern Pacific (which took over the operations of the Central Pacific) constructed a railroad bridge at Martinez in 1930 to replace the ferry crossing, Benicia declined until the economic boom of World War II, which doubled the population to about 7,000 residents.

Two developments in the early 1960s would completely change Benicia: The closing of the Benicia Arsenal in 1960–64, and the completion of the Benicia–Martinez Bridge in 1962. The closing of the Arsenal removed Benicia's traditional economic base, but allowed city leaders to create an industrial park on Arsenal land which eventually provided more revenue for the city than the Army had. The completion of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge made it possible for the city to become a suburb of San Francisco and Oakland, and suburban development in the Benicia hills began in the late 1960s.

Northeast of the town's residential areas an oil refinery was built and completed in 1969 by Humble Oil (later Exxon Corporation). The refinery was later bought by Valero Energy Corporation, a San Antonio-based oil company, in 2000.

Between 1970 and 1995, the population of Benicia grew steadily at a rate of about 1,000 people per year, and the city changed from a poor, blue-collar town of 7,000 to a white-collar bedroom suburb of 28,000.


Farmers' Market

There is a farmers' market on Thursday evenings during the summer months April through October. According to the Benicia Main Street commerce organization, this tradition began in 1992.

Arts Benicia

Arts Benicia's mission is to stimulate, educate, and nurture cultural life in Benicia primarily through the visual arts. This community-based non-profit organization provides exhibitions, educational programs, and classes that support artists and engage the broader community.

Arts Benicia offers dynamic year-round art exhibitions and public art openings, the Benicia Artists Open Studios event in the spring, the Annual Benefit Art Auction in the fall, various special projects, and quarterly art classes for adults and kids. Arts Benicia is located in the Benicia Arsenal at 991 Tyler Street, Suite 114. Gallery hours are Thursday-Sunday, 12:00-5:00 PM during exhibitions; gallery admission is free to the public.

Torchlight Parade

Traditionally held on the July 3, Benicia’s 4 July parade stretches all the way down First Street and typically includes music, dancing, floats, horses, clowns, and live entertainment.

Arts in the Park

Annual summer art celebration in Benicia City Park.

Picnic in the Park & Fireworks

On July 4, there is a large community picnic at Benicia’s City Park traditionally starting at noon. Shortly after dark (approximately 9pm), there is a fireworks display that originates at the foot of First Street.

Benicia Peddler's Fair

This outdoor event began in 1963 with a few collectable and antique stores displaying their items on tables outside St. Paul's Church. Today, over 300 antique and collectable dealers as well as other vendors display their wares in booths that span approximately 11 blocks of First Street. Unverified sources cite attendance in 2006 at approximately 20,000. This event is sponsored by St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Benicia.


Benicia is an active sailing community. In addition to individual sailing out of the Benicia Marina, there are several organized events and competitions. During the summer months, there is a yacht racing competition on Thursday evenings sponsored by the Benicia Yacht Club. The Yacht Club co-sponsors the annual Jazz Cup regatta with the South Beach Yacht Club, and also sponsors a Youth Sailing Program that offers extensive training.

The Holy Ghost Parade

On the fourth Sunday in July, the Portuguese community in Benicia celebrates the feast of the Holy Ghost, continuing a devotion established by the Queen St. Elizabeth of Portugal, who was noted for her care for the poor. The festival starts with a parade to St. Dominic's Church followed by Mass, followed by an auction and a dance. The Holy Ghost Parade celebrated 100 years in Benicia in 2007.

Tree City

Benicia is a Tree City USA and holds an annual Arbor Day event. The Benicia Tree Foundation hosts regular events that involve community members in tree planting activities.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.7 square miles (41 km2), of which 12.9 square miles (33 km2) are land and 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2) (17.75%) are water. Benicia is located on the north side of the Carquinez Strait.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,794
1890 2,361 31.6%
1900 2,751 16.5%
1910 2,360 −14.2%
1920 2,693 14.1%
1930 2,913 8.2%
1940 2,419 −17.0%
1950 7,284 201.1%
1960 6,070 −16.7%
1970 7,349 21.1%
1980 15,376 109.2%
1990 24,437 58.9%
2000 26,865 9.9%
2010 26,997 0.5%
2020 27,131 0.5%
U.S. Decennial Census


Benicia, CA USA - panoramio (21) (cropped)
Downtown Benicia.

The 2010 United States Census reported that Benicia had a population of 26,997. The population density was 1,717.4 people per square mile (663.1/km2). The racial makeup of Benicia was 19,568 (72.5%) White, 1,510 (5.6%) African American, 135 (0.5%) Native American, 2,989 (11.1%) Asian, 102 (0.4%) Pacific Islander, 895 (3.3%) from other races, and 1,798 (6.7%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3,248 persons (12.0%).

The Census reported that 99.9% of the population lived in households and 0.1% lived in non-institutionalized group quarters.

There were 10,686 households, out of which 3,617 (33.8%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 5,668 (53.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,271 (11.9%) had a female householder with no husband present, 480 (4.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 584 (5.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 102 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,628 households (24.6%) were made up of individuals, and 893 (8.4%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52. There were 7,419 families (69.4% of all households); the average family size was 3.02.

The population was spread out, with 6,317 people (23.4%) under the age of 18, 1,923 people (7.1%) aged 18 to 24, 6,087 people (22.5%) aged 25 to 44, 9,303 people (34.5%) aged 45 to 64, and 3,367 people (12.5%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.9 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.9 males.

There were 11,306 housing units at an average density of 719.2 per square mile (277.7/km2), of which 70.5% were owner-occupied and 29.5% were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 6.1%. 72.2% of the population lived in owner-occupied housing units and 27.7% lived in rental housing units.


Benicia Camel Barn Museum
Camel Barn Museum.

As of the census of 2000, there were 26,865 people, 10,328 households, and 7,239 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,082.6 people per square mile (804.1/km2). There were 10,547 housing units at an average density of 817.6 per square mile (315.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.89% White, 9.02% of the population were Hispanic or Latino, 7.56% Asian, 4.82% Black or African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.29% Pacific Islander, 2.65% from other races, and 5.18% from two or more races.

There were 10,328 households, out of which 36.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.2% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% were non-families. 23.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.1% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 28.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $67,617, and the median income for a family was $77,974 (these figures had risen to $84,025 and $102,889 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $59,628 versus $39,893 for females. The per capita income for the city was $31,226. About 3.1% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.4% of those under age 18 and 2.9% of those age 65 or over.


Benicia, CA USA - 1902 SPRR rail ferry depot in Benicia, now Main Street Program - panoramio (1)
Historic train depot.

Benicia has no rail transit, but offers bus transportation through SolTrans and SolanoExpress. The Benicia–Martinez Bridge provides an automobile and rail link over Carquinez Strait, as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes which opened in August 2009. Two blocks from the main downtown district, the Benicia Marina is a full-service marina, offering a fuel dock, pump-out station, launch ramp, general store, laundry, restrooms and showers.

Sites of interest

Benicia's Glass Beach
  • Third capitol of California, with restored building and interpretive historic materials
  • Glass Beach is an unusual beach that is abundant in sea glass created from years of dumping garbage into an area of the coastline. It is located below the 12th Street Park.
  • A segment of the bicycle/pedestrian San Francisco Bay Trail runs through the Benicia State Recreational Area and downtown Benicia
  • Benicia Arsenal
  • Benicia Main Street: First Street-Shopping, Dining and Business district
  • Pete Lemone's Historical House of Mystery
  • Alverez 9th Street Park (AKA the 9th Street Pier) has boat landing, beach area and a great playground for kids. Beautiful sunsets over the Carquinez bridge.

Sister City

Benicia has 1 sister city.:

  • Mexico - Tula de Allende, Hidalgo, Mexico


The Benicia-Martinez Bridge crosses the Carquinez Strait, connecting Benicia in the north to Martinez in the south.

Top employers

According to the city's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Valero 516
2 Benicia Unified School District 465
3 Dunlop Manufacturing 248
4 City of Benicia 229
5 CytoSport 221
6 Bio-Rad Laboratories 209
7 Coca-Cola Refreshments 162
8 Valley Fine Foods 133
9 Pepsi Beverages Company 119
10 1-800 Radiator & A/C 106


USA-Benicia-City Hall-5
Benicia City Hall.

The Benicia Unified School District operates the city's public schools.

  • Elementary
    • Matthew Turner Elementary School (named after a famous local shipbuilder)
    • Robert Semple Elementary School (named after one of the city's founders)
    • Mary Farmar Elementary School
    • Joe Henderson Elementary School (named after a local educator and school superintendent)
  • Middle schools
    • Benicia Middle School
  • High schools
    • Benicia High School
    • Liberty High School

Notable people

Artists and designers

  • Robert Arneson (1930–1992), sculptor, and professor of ceramics in the Art Department at UC Davis.
  • Linda Fleming (born 1945), sculptor, and professor of art at CCA.
  • Addison Mizner (1872–1933), visionary resort architect, born in Benicia.
  • Manuel Neri (born 1930), sculptor, has had a studio in Benicia since 1965.
  • Guillermo Wagner Granizo (1923–1995), ceramic tile muralist, moved to Benicia in 1980.


  • Austin Carr, NFL football player
  • John C. Heenan, boxer, aka "The Benicia Boy"
  • Willie Calhoun, professional baseball player for the Texas Rangers


  • Stephen Vincent Benét, author of "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and other stories and poems, lived in the Arsenal as a young boy
  • James Lloyd Breck, Episcopalian priest
  • Jack London, author, worked in the local fishing industry, and began writing while living in Benicia
  • Wilson Mizner, playwright, born in Benicia

Images for kids

See also

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