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Art shopping and other reasons to visit old Benicia this month.

Art shopping and other reasons to visit old Benicia this month

For a brief moment in history, Benicia shone as California's capital city. In 1853, legislators met in a handsome brick building near Carquinez Strait. But fighting by political groups caused the capital to be relocated in 1854, and it moved to Sacramento.

Now a state historic park, Benicia's old capitol building is at its most inviting during the holidays. Visit the town this month and you can also tour a Victorian house, watch a Christmas parade, and shop at the artists' studios that have materialized in warehouses at E. Sixth and N streets.

Victorian Christmas at the capitol

The stately two-story capitol, with the neighboring 1858 Fischer-Hanlon House, will have a Victorian-style open house from 6 to 8:30 on December 5. Visitors will be offered hot cider, cookies from the woodstove, and music by a pianist and string quartet. First Street stores will stay open until 9 for shoppers.

After that date until Christmas, St. Nicholas will be at the Fischer-Hanlon House from noon to 3 each weekend (for a small fee, you can have your child photographed with the white-bearded gent).

The capitol is open from 10 to 5 daily except Christmas and New Year's Day. But the Fischer-Hanlon House is open only during these holiday weekends. Both buildings are part of Benicia Capitol State Historic Park (at First and West G streets); at both, admission is 50 cents, 12 and under 25 cents.

St. Nicholas makes an appearance on December 6 at a brief old-fashioned, small-town parade from about 11 to noon. It proceeds down First Street from K Street to B Street, with bands, floats, and an animal (plus trainers) from Marine World/Africa USA in nearby Vallejo.

Art browsing in the warehouses

In the waterfront area around the Yuba Complex (674 East H Street) are some dozen artist's studios. Most are closed to the public except during a special holiday sale and open house, to be held from 10 to 4 on December 6 and 7, and 13 and 14. You'll find a number of ceramic artists and glass blowers in this complex, which once housed a foundry, a munitions factory, and an ironworks. The studios are big and airy--also drafty, so dress warmly. Benicia is about 30 miles northeast of Oakland off Interstate 780. To get to Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, take the Second Street exit, head south, and follow signs.

Photo: Inside sheet metal--sided warehouses near Benicia's waterfront are studios for artists in glass and ceramics. During open house, shoppers study inlaid porcelain at Erteman studio

Photo: "Don't try this at home,' trainer advises audience at last year's Benicia's First Street Christmas parade; a Marine World animal will take part again this year
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Benicia, California
Date:Dec 1, 1986
Previous Article:What was Christmas like during the gold rush? Or when Los Angeles belonged to Mexico? 12 California state parks recreate history for the holidays.
Next Article:Gifts from San Francisco's museums.

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