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Benicia is a waterside city in Solano County, California, United States. It was the first city in California to be founded by Anglo-Americans, and served as the state capital for nearly thirteen months from 1853 to 1854. The population was 26,865 at the 2000 census. The city is located in the San Francisco Bay Area along the north bank of the Carquinez Strait. Benicia is just east of Vallejo and across the strait from Martinez. Elizabeth Patterson has served as Mayor of Benicia since 2007.
The town can be divided into four areas: the East Side (east of First Street), the West Side (west of First Street), Southampton (the newer suburban neighborhoods north of highway 780), and the industrial park. Most of the town's older homes are on the east and west sides. Southampton contains primarily single family housing developments and condominiums, most of which were built between 1970 and 2000. The East Side includes the Benicia Arsenal, a former United States Army armory, which was bought by the city and is now used for a variety of purposes, most notably as live-work spaces for artists. The Arsenal is home to several historic (ca. 1860) landmark buildings such as The Clock Tower, the Camel Barn, and the Jefferson Street Mansion. The industrial park lies to the northeast of the residential areas of the city, and includes the Valero oil refinery. The Benicia State Recreation Area is on the far west edge of the city.
The main retail area in Benicia is First Street, which attracts out-of-town antique and boutique shoppers and those seeking small-town, historic charm. In 1987 Benicia was selected to participate in the California Main Street Program.
Connections to Benicia include Interstate 680 from Martinez to the south and Cordelia Junction (Fairfield) to the north, and Interstate 780, Columbus Parkway, and other local roads from Vallejo to the west. Amtrak also runs past the city north towards Sacramento, but the nearest train station lies in Martinez across the Carquinez Strait. Railroad tracks carrying Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad lines cross the strait alongside the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.
The City of Benicia was founded on May 19, 1847 by Dr. Robert Semple, and Thomas O. Larkin and Comandante General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, on land sold to them by General Vallejo in December 1846. It was named for the General's wife, Francisca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo. The General intended that the city be named "Francisca" after his wife, but this name was dropped when the former city of "Yerba Buena" changed its name to "San Francisco". So Sra. Vallejo's second given name was used instead.
Benicia was the third site selected to serve as the California state capital, and its newly constructed city hall was California's capitol from February 11, 1853 to February 25, 1854. Soon after the legislature was moved to the courthouse in Sacramento, which has remained the state capital ever since. The restored capital building is part of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, and is the only building remaining of the state's early capital buildings, which were in San Jose and Vallejo. Benicia was also the county seat of Solano County until 1858, when that was moved to Fairfield.
The original campus of Mills College was founded in Benicia in 1852 as the Young Ladies Seminary, and was the first women's college west of the Rockies. Before moving to Oakland in 1871, it was located on West I Street, just north of First Street.
On June 5, 1889, the legendary prize fight between James J. Corbett and Joe Choynski was held on a barge off the coast of Benicia. The match lasted 28 rounds, and is now commemorated by a plaque near Southampton Bay.
From 1860-1861, Benicia was indirectly involved in the Pony Express. When riders missed their connection with a steamer in Sacramento, they would continue on to Benicia and cross over to Martinez via the ferry. One of the earliest companies in California, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, established a major shipyard in Benicia in the 19th century. Benicia became an important wheat storage and shipping site. It was also the site of the United States Army's Benicia Arsenal.
In 1879, the Central Pacific Railroad re-routed the Sacramento-Oakland portion of its transcontinental line, establishing a major railroad ferry across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to Port Costa. The world's largest ferry, the Solano, later joined by the even larger Contra Costa, carried entire trains across the Carquinez Strait from Benicia to Port Costa, from whence they continued on to the Oakland Pier.
In 1901, the world's first long-distance powerline crossing over Carquinez Strait was built. After California's wheat output dropped in the early 20th Century and especially after the Southern Pacific (which took over the operations of the Central Pacific) constructed a railroad bridge at Martinez in 1930 to replace the ferry crossing, Benicia declined until the economic boom of World War II, which doubled the population to about 7,000 residents.
Two developments in the early 1960s would completely change Benicia: The closing of the Benicia Arsenal in 1960–64, and the completion of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge in 1962. The closing of the Arsenal removed Benicia's traditional economic base, but allowed city leaders to create an industrial park on Arsenal land which eventually provided more revenue for the city than the Army had. The completion of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge made it possible for the city to become a suburb of San Francisco and Oakland, and suburban development in the Benicia hills began in the late 1960s.
On December 20, 1968 near the Benicia water pumping station on Lake Herman Road, the Zodiac Killer made his debut by killing Vallejo natives David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen as they rested, or "necked", in Faraday's car. Near the same area on July 4 of the following year, the killer struck again, killing Darlene Ferrin and injuring Michael Mageau at the Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, immediately next to Benicia.
Northeast of the town's residential areas an oil refinery was built and completed in 1969 by Humble Oil (later Exxon Corporation). The refinery was later bought by Valero Energy Corporation, a San Antonio-based oil company, in 2000.
Between 1970 and 1995, the population of Benicia grew steadily at a rate of about 1,000 people per year, and the city changed from a poor, blue-collar town of 7,000 to a white-collar bedroom suburb of 28,000.
There is a Farmers' market on Thursday evenings during the summer months May through October. According to the Benicia Main Street commerce organization, this tradition began in 1992.
First Fridays on First. On the first Friday of each month, May through October, participating shops and restaurants encourage a festival atmosphere with balloons and live music on First Street. During the summer months, outdoor movies are shown at 9 p.m. near the gazebo at City Park.
Arts Benicia. Regular art exhibits and public art openings in the Arts Benicia Gallery at 991 Tyler Street in the armory. Also an annual art auction in the fall, a spring Open Studios event, and many art classes for adults and teens. 
Torchlight Parade & Dance. Traditionally held on the July 3, Benicia’s 4 July parade stretches all the way down First Street and typically includes music, dancing, floats, horses, clowns, and live entertainment. A street dance and live entertainment traditionally follow the parade on First Street.
Arts in the Park. Annual summer art celebration in Benicia City Park. 
Picnic in the Park & Fireworks. On July 4, there is a large community picnic at Benicia’s City Park traditionally starting at noon. Shortly after dark (approximately 9pm), there is a fireworks display that originates at the foot of First Street.
Benicia Peddler's Fair. This outdoor event began in 1963 with a few collectable and antique stores displaying their items on tables outside St. Paul's Church. Today, over 300 antique and collectable dealers as well as other vendors display their wares in booths that span approximately 11 blocks of First Street. Unverified sources cite attendance in 2006 at approximately 20,000. This event is sponsored by St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Benicia. 
Benicia is an active sailing community. In additional to individual sailing out of the Benicia Marina, there are several organized events and competitions. During the summer months, there is a yacht racing competition on Thursday evenings sponsored by the Benicia Yacht Club. The Yacht Club also sponsors a Youth Sailing Program that offers extensive training.
The Holy Ghost Parade. Every fourth Sunday in July, the Portuguese community in Benicia celebrates the feast of the Holy Ghost, commemorating the Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal, with a parade to Saint Dominic's Church followed by mass, an auction and a dance. The Holy Ghost Parade celebrated 100 years in Benicia in 2007. 
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.6 square miles (40.4 km²), of which 12.9 square miles (33.4 km²) are land and 2.7 square miles (7.0 km²) are (17.31%) is water. Benicia is located on the north side of the Carquinez Strait.
As of the census of 2000, there were 26,865 people, 10,328 households, and 7,239 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,082.6 people per square mile (804.1/km²). There were 10,547 housing units at an average density of 817.6/sq mi (315.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.89% White, 9.02% of the population were Hispanic or Latino, 7.56% Asian, 4.82% Black or African American, 0.60% Native American, 0.29% Pacific Islander, 2.65% from other races, and 5.18% from two or more races.
There were 10,328 households out of which 36.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.2% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% were non-families. 23.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.1% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 28.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 94.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $67,617, and the median income for a family was $77,974 (these figures had risen to $84,025 and $102,889 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $59,628 versus $39,893 for females. The per capita income for the city was $31,226. About 3.1% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.4% of those under age 18 and 2.9% of those age 65 or over.
Benicia has no transit by train, but there is transit by a bus service named Benicia Breeze. Different routes notably go to Pleasant Hill (BART station), Suisun, Fairfield, Concord, Vallejo, the Martinez Amtrak station and Northwest Benicia City Ride. The Benicia-Martinez Bridge provides an automobile and rail link over Carquinez Strait, as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes which opened in August 2009 . Two blocks from the main downtown district, the Benicia Marina is a full-service marina, offering a fuel dock, pump-out station, launch ramp, general store, laundry, restrooms and showers.
The Benicia Unified School District operates public schools.
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