Camp Union soldiers marched where the Sacramento Zoo now sits and their parading grounds now enjoy 4 of the 5 baseball diamonds. A restroom was transformed into the present day Tiny Tots Preschool. Horses were rented from College Stables at the corner of Sutterville Road and Freeport Boulevard for Sacramentans to enjoy a day of riding. In 1953, the first Police Academy held its classes at William Land Park. Bartley Cavanaugh owned a ranch that featured his interests of race horses, hops kilns and barns that was situated near where the Sacramento Zoo now sits. Andrew Caruthers from Pennsylvania bought a 160 acre ranch in 1849 in the southeast corner of William Land Park.
To say that William Land Parks 160 acres enjoys a rich history is an understatement. John Sutter wanted to ensure a city that would be above a consistently challenging flood plain. He located Sutterville at the southwest corner of what is now known as William Land Park. Spreading out from this establishment of a ships carpenter, doctor, brewery owner and brick layer the citizens made their homes. Due to poorly managed finances, Sutterville gave way to nearby Sacramento in 1852, when the brewery was torn down.
William Land made his fortune primarily as a hotelier, establishing the Western Hotel on 2nd and K and then erecting the Land Hotel in downtown Sacramento. He died in 1911, leaving a legacy of $250,000 to “to purchase a public park within a suitable distance” of Sacramento to be used as a recreation spot for the children and a pleasure ground for the poor.” William Land Park was established on its present site in the 1920’s.
William Land was a gentleman ahead of his time and his legacy has become a rich environment for all to enjoy. The Land Park Golf Course, opening in 1924, was the first golf course in Sacramento. Pony rides have been enjoyed in William Land Park since the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. Funderland, a concession for children ages 2-12, was established in 1941. Fairytale Town has been entertaining toddlers and preschoolers since 1959. The William Land Park Amphitheatre has hosted concerts, plays and other productions since as early as 1963. The Village Green (appearing to most as a simple square slab of cement) has been a popular place for concerts in the 1970’s and has been used more recently for practicing skating, playing bagpipes and the staging area for hundreds of charity events.
William Land Park celebrates its history with many memorials. William Land’s own memorial sits in the park across from Sacramento City Junior College. It was designed by noted architect Leonard F. Starks in honor of William Land (1837-1911). The plaque contains a quote by Virgil: “The noblest motive is the public good.” The World War 1 Memorial was erected in 1973 and honors the Sacramentans who gave their lives in the war. The statue of Charles Swanston was erected by his son George and included a dance pavilion (now a part of the Sacramento Zoo). There are many groves and gardens celebrating influential groups who helped make Sacramento what it is today. Currently William Land Park features multitudes of entertainment possibilities. It has 1 class 1 and 22 class 2 updated picnic areas with tables and barbecues for which some can be reserved for that family reunion or birthday party. The park has 3 ponds stocked with fish for those who enjoy the rod and reel…just be sure the geese and ducks don’t beat you to it! For baseball lovers, it has 2 softball fields and 3 baseball fields, one of which is lit. Soccer lovers enjoy its 2 bantam and 1 full size soccer fields. Very close to Tiny Tots Preschool you can find basketball players challenging each other on the basketball court. . Joggers can get in their daily run on the 3.4 mile jogging course. To this day, the 9-hole Land Park Golf Course is constantly being enjoyed by local golfers. The accredited Sacramento Zoo was established in 1927 and features over 140 native, exotic and endangered species.
As you can see, William Land Park is a Sacramento treasure with a rich history. Come enjoy a summer day at this family oriented oasis full of wonderful experiences and potential memories!