Old Sacramento Tour Review - 2005 Sacramento Bee

Tour guides portraying colorful historical characters lend realism to visions of Old Sac during the Gold Rush
By Ed Fletcher -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, April 11, 2005

Greg Tracy, as Darius Bradley Fry, an early justice of the peace and militia captain, leads a tour in Old Sacramento on Sunday. Tracy is among a growing number of guides participating in the Old Sacramento Living History Program. Last year, in the program's inaugural season, 1,100 people took the tours.Greg Tracy, as Darius Bradley Fry, an early justice of the peace and militia captain, leads a tour in Old Sacramento on Sunday. Tracy is among a growing number of guides participating in the Old Sacramento Living History Program. Last year, in the program's inaugural season, 1,100 people took the tours.Among a sea of T-shirts and Bermuda shorts and synthetic blends worn by Old Sacramento visitors, Darius Bradley Fry in his black top hat, frock coat and leather gloves doesn't quite fit in.

Not in this era, anyway.

Fry, an early Sacramento justice of the peace and militia captain, was brought to life Sunday by Greg Tracy as he led an Old Sacramento walking tour.

"Unless you brought all your equipment for mining, the sharks were waiting," he told the group of seven at one stop along the hourlong tour.

Unlike today's merchants, no one was offering buy-two get-the-third-one-free types of deals.

Tracy is among a slowly growing number of participants in the Old Sacramento Living History Program who are giving increasingly popular costumed tours.

In its inaugural season, last year, 1,100 people took program tours through the old town streets. This year, program director Amy Whitlatch expects the group to lead at least 2,500 on tours.

"More people are hearing about our tours," Whitlatch said.

Regularly scheduled tours depart from 1004 Second St. at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays through September, except for Labor Day weekend, when Gold Rush Days and dozens of costumed participants send the entire Old Sacramento district into a time warp. Tours cost $7, with discounts for the young, the old and groups. For reservations, call (916) 264-8142.

Whitlatch said she started out as a history buff who wanted no part of the costume bit, but now said that leading tours as Jane Shurr, a Gold Rush-era hotel owner, is quite natural.

Joan Griffin of Auburn, who hadn't been to Old Sacramento in years, relives its Gold-Rush past during a tour Sunday led by Greg Tracy, dressed as justice of the peace D.B. Fry. "I don't remember its being so big," Griffin said of the popular historical districtJoan Griffin of Auburn, who hadn't been to Old Sacramento in years, relives its Gold-Rush past during a tour Sunday led by Greg Tracy, dressed as justice of the peace D.B. Fry. "I don't remember its being so big," Griffin said of the popular historical districtLocals taking out-of-towners on a tour often get as much enjoyment as their guests, Whitlatch said.

"They are always amazed that there is that much history still here," Whitlatch said.

Sacramento is filled with seldom-talked-about historical facts, said Greg Voelm, a local history enthusiast and author of an upcoming book on the Gold Rush.

"Lots of exciting things happened here," Voelm said. "Sacramento is a hidden jewel. More and more people are coming to Sacramento because it's the city that brought California the Gold Rush."

When California's population exploded after the discovery of gold, Sacramento played a pivotal role, serving as the starting and ending points of the nation's horse-powered mail service and the transcontinental railroad.

"People should be able to see where it happened, and they can do that with the walking tour," Voelm said. "You are literally walking on the same grounds where the Pony Express started."

Casual visitors to Old Sacramento often miss out on much of the history just beneath the surface. Signs atop second-and third-story buildings refer to the building's glory days.

Sunday, those names and times came to life.

"When you came here, "you wanted to be either the first bather or the 11th bather, because they only changed the water every 10th bather," Fry explained at one stop on the tour, a former public bath.

At some points along the way, other visitors paused to listen in or snap a picture.

Debbie Nagle said the costume made the tour more authentic.

"It was quite informative," Nagle said.

Joan Griffin said she hadn't been to Old Sacramento in years.

"I don't remember its being so big," Griffin said.
Visitors relive Gold Rush history Sunday with tour guide Greg Tracy. "You are literally walking on the same grounds where the Pony Express started," says Greg Voelm, a local history buff who has written an upcoming book on the Gold Rush.Visitors relive Gold Rush history Sunday with tour guide Greg Tracy. "You are literally walking on the same grounds where the Pony Express started," says Greg Voelm, a local history buff who has written an upcoming book on the Gold Rush.