Rio Vista California Photo Tour


Rio Vista, regularly called the "Capital of the Netherlands," in light of its significance as the center point of the productive Sacramento River delta area, is a delightful little town numbering somewhere in the range of at least 1,500 people and is located on the north bank of the Sacramento River, half way between Sacramento and San Francisco.

Today Rio Vista has been made easily and rapidly available to the outside world by State Highway 12, a great expressway passing straight through the town and by way of a colossal bascule bridge, finished in 1919, which traverses the waterway at the limits of town. However, its magnificent transportation facilities by water connect the present prosperity of Rio Vista with its fascinating past, for at one time it was as headquarters for shipping salmon that started the first settlement when. Mr. Robert Carter, one of only a handful of pioneers, recounted the troubles which were experienced in those early days, before finally getting the steamers traveling amongst Sacramento and San Francisco to make a landing between other than Benicia between these two points. Salmon fishing was at its best nearer to Rio Vista than of Sacramento, a huge number of salmon being gotten in the nets, and it was difficult to load and ship the fish, before a permanent pier was built for fishing headquarters near old Rio Vista.

The need for a dock to ship fish and the trouble in getting boats to stop has been alluded to. The first landing, constructed by Davis and Sidwell, measured 24 by 75 feet, yet the steamer "New World", which ferried the mail from San Francisco to Sacramento still declined to land. This prompted Davis to appeal, in 1858, for a post office which would require the "New World" to stop, since by contract it was obligated to stop at Benicia and all other landings where mail ought to be delivered. The post office asked for another name than "Brazos del Rio", due to the disarray with different post offices correspondingly designated, and the proposal by Colonel Davis, who was a great Spanish researcher, which was "Vista del Rio", was abbreviated by popular preference to the name, "Rio Vista".

In 1859, the California Navigation Company assumed control over this wharf and expanded it to 150 by 48 feet. Subsequently, The steamers "Impala", "New World", "Overshadowing", and "Representative", included Rio Vista as a port of call on their voyages. Many anglers and busy shippers created a time of incredible prosperity on the little settlement for over five years.

However in 1861 there were prolonged and unusual downpours, which flooded a part of the town during December, and in January, 1862, decimated the rest of the town, which stood under six feet of water. Around 150 homeless occupants, made doubly hopeless by the continuing storm, gathered on high ground past the town, from which they were at long last rescued by steamers.

In March of 1862, four men, S.R. Perry, Wm. Squires, J. M. Sidwell and Isaac Dunham looked for a new location for the town and the present day Rio Vista site was procured from Joseph Bruning. The northeast portion of the Bruning farm on the edge of the Montezuma slopes was picked and the town plat was surveyed by Bruning and recorded using the name, "New Rio Vista". Subsequently an addition to the town was surveyed and subsequently recorded by T. McWorthy, proprietor of the Gardener ranch. Main Street denote the division of the two ranches at the present day.

The new town developed quickly and in no time hotels were constructed by J. M. Sidwell and Wm. K. Squires, and other buildings. The bricks of Albert Westgate's store continue to stand today. The first two story residence was constructed by J. C. Carter and was the subject of many remarks at the time of its construction. A wharf was built by J. Bruning in 1862. The initial church was the Catholic, built in June, 1862, while the Congregational Church followed in August of that year. In the fall of 1862, the first public school was built on a lot donated by J. Bruning, with Jas. U. Pursue as the first teacher. Later in 1876, Bruning erected the Academy for young women. This institute was named to pay tribute to his his wife, Elizabeth Gertrude, one of first white women in that area of Solano, and was dedicated in December, 1876 by Bishop Alemany. The first post office was situated in the store operated by S. R. Perry, who additionally acted as postmaster. The Rio Vista Lodge No. 208, F. was the first fraternal organization, while in September, 1870, Rio Vista Lodge, I. O. O. F No 180.; in 1872, the River View Encampment, No. 6, Champions of the Red Cross. The first daily paper was started in 1877, by L. L. Palmer, who named his paper the "Week by week Gleaner".

Rio Vista Bridge

Old and New Rio Vista Bridges
Old and New Rio Vista Bridges
Rio Vista Bridge
Rio Vista Bridge
The first Rio Vista bridge was not finished until 1919 (steamboats and ferries crossed the wide Sacramento before the bridge). The present steel truss bridge was finished in 1960; in 1967, the Italian freighter Ilice, traveling the river in dense tule fog and destined for the port of Sacramento, saw just one of the two primary towers, missed the open lift span and pummeled into the stationary eastern span. The ship endured moderate damage - the bridge came out worse. With east-west auto/truck movement at a standstill, repairs took only 22 days - showing the significance of Highway 12. From Rio Vista, come back to Stockton by heading east on Highway 12, then Interstate 5 south; you now have more extraordinary Delta recollections to enjoy.

Main Street

Main Street Looking West
Main Street Looking West
Main Street
Main Street
1 Main Street Rio Vista City Hall
1 Main Street Rio Vista City Hall
8 Main Street
8 Main Street
95 Main Street
95 Main Street
Bank of Rio Vista - 101 Main Street
Bank of Rio Vista - 101 Main Street
170 Main Street
170 Main Street
170 Main Street
170 Main Street

Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Rio Vista Hotel - 210 Main Street
Finished in 1914, the grand opening banquet occurred Sept. 26. The inn, additionally called the Rio Vista Hotel, handled the steamship travelers disembarking in Rio Vista. It's amenities included a restaurant and clothing store.

The present proprietor Jack Hirsch plans for ground floor retail space is nothing new. Phil Pezzaglia, the town's historian, whose family was one of the main pioneers in the area in the 1800s said "It was the fanciest hotel." The street level floor has always been an assortment of businesses – Hite's Pharmacy, Rio Vista Cash Store, Pezzaglia's Toggery, a Sears catalogue store along with an array of clothing stores, barber shops and hair salons.

Fire swept through downtown Rio Vista in 1917. While numerous businesses were left in ashes, the exterior walls of the inn rose in place from the disaster. Its structural soundness is something Hirsch still sees almost 100 years after the fact.


Former Vista Theater - 241 Main Street
Former Vista Theater - 241 Main Street
Former Vista Theater - 241 Main Street
Former Vista Theater - 241 Main Street
Former Vista Theater - 241 Main Street
Former Vista Theater - 241 Main Street Back Side
The Vista was purchased by Paul Weiss in 1923 and moved from the 100 to the 200 block in 1925. The original structure was enlarged to two stories and the Vista Theatre neon marquee was added. A ticket booth was situated in front of the entrance just in from the sidewalk. The seating capacity of the theater was 530. The color and design of the high ceilings and walls reflected the art deco period. The auditorium featured a stage flanked by pillars and a balcony. The projector and lighting were state-of- the art, and the stunning Robert-Morton pipe organ that was installed was the largest in Solano County at the time. The theatre opened in 1925 with the silent film The Dressmaker from Paris. Attending the dedication was Mayor Martin Christensen Jr. The Vista became one of the most successful businesses on Main Street. It operated under different owners until 1974 when its doors were permanently closed. Rio Vista has not had an operating movie theatre in town since that time. However, the original art deco walls and ceiling remain today. The theater closed in 1974.

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Rio Vista Photo Tour Reviewed by Gene Wright on . Rating: 5

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