The Firehouse Restaurant is located in historic Old Sacramento along the city’s waterfront, which in the mid-1800s was known as the “gateway to the goldfields”. Prior to the development of the transcontinental railroad, ships filled with dry goods, mining tools, immigrant labor, and visitors stopped at the waterfront on a weekly basis. During its heyday, Old Sacramento was home to financiers, heads of state, houses of ill repute, and all the necessary activities common to a pivotal point of commerce.
In 1850, Sacramento organized California’s first fire department. After two major fires resulted in extensive damage to the area, a new brick firehouse was built in 1853 to house the fire chief and volunteer crew of Engine Company No. 3. In 1872, the Legislature made this company the state’s first paid fire department. In 1921, the building was abandoned for a larger facility, and was sold to a private party in 1923. A succession of owners and tenants were custodians of the building until its purchase by Newton Cope in 1959. By that time, the once bustling waterfront area had deteriorated into a slum, which was scheduled for demolition to make way for construction of Interstate 5 along the river. Concerned citizens heavily lobbied the State Department of Transportation and the freeway route was moved 1½ blocks east to its present location, creating the National Historic District of Old Sacramento. Mr. Cope undertook a major facelift on the firehouse building, converting it into a small bar and restaurant reminiscent of the Gold Rush Era. This was the first building renovation of the new Historic District.
Opening day of The Firehouse in 1960 was the achievement of an elegant atmosphere complete with Victorian art and elaborate antiques. The restaurant was an immediate success and has since attracted millions of patrons including governors, politicians, diplomats, sports and entertainment celebrities, international business people, tourists, and locals. As governor, Ronald Reagan held both of his inaugural dinners at The Firehouse.