5 Must-See Historic Gems in Vacaville, California
Explore Vacaville’s rich history through art, architecture, and adventure. From a deep dive into history at one of the...
Take a look back at Vacaville’s history and explore some of the people, places, and events that have shaped the city you see today.
Vacaville sits on land that was granted to Juan Manuel Vaca and Juan Felipe Peña in 1843. Originally called Rancho Lihuaytos - the name of Putah Creek at that time - the land eventually came to be known as Rancho Los Putos. In 1850, Vaca sold one square league (about 9 square miles) of land to William McDaniel with the provision that one square mile (640 acres) would be used to create a township called Vacaville. The sale caused significant controversy, as Vaca did not speak, read, or write English and later claimed that William McDaniel had misled him into selling 9 miles instead of the 1 mile he had agreed to, and the attorney for McDaniel, who profited from the sale of the land, acted as interpreter during the transaction.
The land sale caused a rift between the Vaca and Peña families. Following the quarrel, Vaca sold his adobe to John Wesley Hill, prior to Vaca’s death in 1856. The Vaca adobe was destroyed during the Vacaville-Winters earthquake in 1892, but the Peña home has been carefully preserved thanks to the stewardship of the City of Vacaville and the Peña Adobe Historical Society. Visitors can tour the adobe and the accompanying Mowers-Goheen Museum, whose collection includes children’s toys from the Peña family, clothing from the turn of the century, and even a woolly mammoth bone, on the first Saturday of each month from 11-2 at 4699 Peña Adobe Rd.
Back in the Nut Tree's heyday, Vacaville had quite a few celebrity visitors. Here are a few you might have heard of: President Ronald Reagan, President Richard Nixon, Queen Elizabeth II, Danny Kaye, Bozo the Clown, and Bing Crosby. Hankering for some throwback Nut Tree experiences? Here are 6 ways to get nostalgic at the Nut Tree.
California’s most renowned botanist, Willis Jepson, was raised in Vacaville. In 1892, at the age of 25, Jepson co-founded the Sierra Club with John Muir. He went on to have a distinguished career as botany professor, a botanical writer, and a conservationist. Willis Jepson middle school in Vacaville is named for him, and you can spot a big, metallic bunch of flowers and fronds on Leisure Town Road near Orange Drive that pays tribute to Vacaville’s favorite botanist. Find even more tributes and treasures when you explore Public Art throughout the town, or explore the natural side of Vacaville by going on an agriventure!
When you think football, Vacaville may not be the first city that comes to mind, but many previous residents became professional football players! Jarret Bush played at Will C. Wood High School and became a cornerback for the Green Bay Packers. Other players include Vince Newsome (NFL player for Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens), Xzavie Jackson (ex-defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals), Josh Kaddu (linebacker for the Miami Dolphins) and Kyle DeVan (offensive guard for the Tennessee Titans).
Other famous athletes from Vacaville include Andy Bloom (Olympic shot putter, NCAA champion in the shot put and discus), Dennis Alexio (kickboxer, eight-time world champion), Jermaine Dye (Major League Baseball player; 2005 World Series MVP with the Chicago White Sox), and Stefan Janoski (skateboarder).
Vacaville is home to Icon Aircraft, an aviation game-changer, and manufacturer of the world’s first light-sport aircraft. The ICON A-5 is an amphibious sport-plane that even folds up to be towed behind a vehicle. Coupled with the Nut Tree Airport and the Center for Freedom and Flight, aviation is an intrinsic part of Vacaville’s past, present, and future!
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