A rare glimpse into one of Sacramento’s underground sidewalks. Looking through a fence, from the alley (Improv Alley?), towards J Street. Until a few months ago, this lot had a building on it, which went up to the sidewalk. It doesn’t look like much, but there’s a whole story behind this hollow space under the sidewalk. The brickwork was built in the 1860s, as part of the project to raise Sacramento’s streets. This was response to the major floods which would regularly inundate the city. The streets were raised. Second floors became first floors. First floors became basements. And city sidewalks became underground tunnels. Every once in a while, often because of a fire, demolition or new construction, one of these old hollow sidewalks is opened again, and we can peek in and dwell a bit on Sacramento’s remarkable history of learning to live with, and to some extent to control, two powerful rivers.

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