California’s Architectural Treasures You Didn’t Know About


Nearly everyone is familiar with the most famous architectural treasures of California, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House. Traveling with blinders on can be a sure way to miss some of the most impressive treasures the state’s architectural history has to offer, though.

Here, we’ve made a list of 8 of the lesser-known treasures the Sunny State has to offer its visitors:

1. Sunnylands

Sunnylands, located in Greater Palm Springs, is the former estate of UK ambassador Walter Annenberg and spans a whopping 200 acres. The 25,000-square-foot house boasts a mid-century modern appeal complete with glass walls and an impressive art collection. The Annenbergs donated many of their original artwork to museums, but there are still replicas of the works by Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh to name a few on the walls. There are also 1.25 miles of garden walks to peruse on the land and tickets can be purchased for a guided tour.

2. Hearst Castle

Located on the Central Coast, Hearst Castle is a lavish home that was created for William Randolph Hearst in 1947. It is located in a state park with 127 acres of gardens, 165 rooms and 360-degree views of the coast.

3. State Capitol

In Sacramento, California’s State Capitol building is a miniature version of the U.S. Capitol in D.C. The building was completed in 1969, and free tours are available. A museum in the building also features original flags from the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I.

On the same grounds, you’ll find The Library and Courts Building, which is highly regarded as one of the most stunning buildings in State Government. The entrance boasts three murals, and the entire building is full of decorative details. It was built in 1928 and the exterior was built with Sierra white granite.

4. Sundial Bridge

Located over the Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle Bay, the Sundial Bridge is noted as a functional work of art. It was designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect. The bridge spans 700 feet and features a glass walkway and a white tower that forms an actual sundial with the suspension cables.

5. Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Built in 1929, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse was designed with a Spanish-Moorish influence, and boasts meticulous gardens and lawns. It so highly regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in the U.S. that it even offers the ability to have wedding ceremonies on the grounds. Unlike many other California courthouses, the interior also boasts plenty of Spanish tiling and even a mural room that create some of the most breathtaking wedding photos you’ll ever see.

6. Walt Disney Concert Hall

In Los Angeles, the Walt Disney Concert Hall offers not only impressive sound at the many live shows there year-round, but also striking design. Many have likened it to a stainless steel-covered form of origami. It was designed by Frank Gehry, and the interior of the concert hall was built with Douglas fir.

7. Catalina Casino

Out on Santa Catalina Island, the Catalina Casino is a spectacular circular building offering impressive wraparound views of the coast. It was built just before the Great Depression by William Wrigley Jr., who owned a controlling interest in the island since 1919. Wrigley believed the casino cast a spell on anyone who entered it, offering a relaxing and fun escape during the country’s downward economic spiral.

8. Mono County Courthouse

The Mono County Courthouse is located in Bridgeport, and was built in 1880. It boasts Italian architecture design and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The courthouse was designed by J.R. Roberts and the original cost was $31,000. Though it is only 74×80 feet and 2 1/5 stories tall, its intricate woodwork and nod to the Victorian era is a must-see for lovers of architectural history. It boasts a cupola, 12-foot heavy wooden doors and French hand-rolled glass panes.

There is literally something for everyone in California, and that doesn’t end with the architectural treasures you can tour state-wide. Whether you want to find a building with a nod to modern mid-century design or Victorian influences, we think you’ll enjoy the impressive designs and planning that went into each of these architectural treasures.


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