In Sacramento, savvy visitors and history buffs will know about the B.F. Hastings building at the corner of 2nd and J Streets. But to the majority of people that visit the area, the B.F. Hastings building is just another big brick building among the many that have been here for over a century. However, much to their amazement, the B.F. Hastings building is not only the home to our humble Wells Fargo Museum, but it also has a historical legacy that surpasses most other buildings in the area, making the B.F. Hastings building a cornerstone of Old Sacramento.
The construction of the B.F. Hastings building was completed in 1853, a year after the great fire that destroyed most of Sacramento city. The oversized building was ordered by Benjamin F. Hastings as a home for his banking institution. Hastings rented the remaining spaces to various companies and people—some of the most unique tenants a building could ever have.
One of the first tenants was the Wells Fargo and Express Company, beginning in 1854. Wells Fargo would reside in the building until moving down the street into the Adams Express Company building after that agency’s demise in 1857. Wells Fargo returned in the 1970s with a commercial banking office, which soon evolved into the Wells Fargo History Museum in Old Sacramento. (Who would have thought that by the 1870s Hastings bank would be out of business and Wells Fargo would still be in the building 153 years later?)
The next great tenant to move into the Hastings building was the California Supreme Court, moving into what is now the second floor of the building. The Hastings building became the first permanent home of the Supreme Court, which resided in the building until 1857. The High Court moved to 4th and J Streets for two years, and then returned to the Hastings building in 1859 and resided there for 10 more years.
Sacramento is known for its contribution to the transcontinental railroad through the legacy of the Big Four: Huntington, Hopkins, Crocker, and Stanford. But the transcontinental railroad would never have existed—or would have taken much longer anyway—without the genius of one man, Theodore Judah, the railroad engineer that designed and built a huge section of the transcontinental railway. Judah had an office on the second floor of the building for a short time during 1855.
The building was also the western terminus for the Pony Express, one of the greatest stories of Americana and the West. The Alta and California Telegraph Companies acted as a receiving station for the short lived Pony Express and both were located in the building. A statue of a Pony Express rider, hurtling across the frontier, stands kitty-corner across 2nd and J Streets, memorializing the heroic delivery of the U.S. Mail to this historic corner.
All of these people and institutions have made the B.F. Hastings building one of the most significant landmarks in Old Sacramento, and everyone at the Wells Fargo History Museum will keep reminding visitors of how much history resides in this great building.