Sacramento, California is well known for its rich and vibrant history. What is often overlooked, however, is the history of the smaller communities, neighborhoods and roadways that are just as fascinating as the tales from the big cities. Florin Road in Sacramento is one of those places. Alone, its history is fascinating and intriguing but considering it as a whole of Sacramento makes the whole area that much more captivating.
The area of Florin Road was once a hub of business and activity. Today it is still a census-designated place (CDP) in Sacramento County, California with a population of near 50,000 people. Its distinctive history undoubtedly contributed to the dense population of an area no bigger than 8.7 square miles, all land.
Old Florin Town, as the area is now known, started out much as the rest of the state with its earliest settlers arriving from Asia and Europe. Agriculture was its mainstay and it became well-known for its strawberries thanks to the high number of Japanese settlers. It was once known as the strawberry capital of the world. There are still many long-time residents of Japanese descent.
Mr. James Rutter, a horticulturist known world-wide, planted and began to cultivate the 'Florin Flame Tokay' grape. It won myriad prizes and for more than a century Florin was the center of its production.
The town was officially established in 1875. A local judge, E.B. Crocker, had named the town Florin, Latin for Flora, because of the abundance of wild flower fields. Railroads and a post office were soon built and a school was erected in 1877. Many churches had begun to pop up and some are still in existence today, including the Florin Church of Christ church, built in 1856.
By 1877 the area was prospering by leaps and bounds. The Goddard Hotel, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Sugden's Mercantile all set up business and became staples of the community. The areas first winery was started in 1897 by Mr. James Frasinetti. He owned acre upon acre of vineyards along Florin Road. The business stayed in the family and in 1985 the Frasinetti family opened a restaurant in the very same building that contained the areas first wine producing vats. Frasinetti’s winery as well as the restaurant are still in business today.
Florin Road and its surrounding areas were rich, fertile grounds. In the years preceding WWII, there was an overabundance of grapes and strawberries as well as prolific in dairy and agricultural farms. The Florin Fruit Growers' Association became the oldest family’s cooperative west of the Mississippi. Florin’s peak years are said to be between the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. During that time the town sold nearly 250 train cars full of strawberries or grapes each season.
The large assemblage of Japanese immigrants erected the Florin Buddhist Temple in 1919. It is another one still in existence today. The original building is used as a religious and cultural center with a gymnasium built on in 1938. The Japanese population was so large; they were the areas main farmers most dominant presiding culture.
There was much dissent with Japan pre-WWII as well as during and after that caused the Florin population much grief. Japan had gained ground with a victory against Russia in 1905. The United States had been experiencing a large influx of Japanese immigrants and the numbers were climbing. There had recently been some drastic government regulations against Chinese immigrants. Japan, hoping to save face against the rest of the world presented an agreement to the United States in 1907 which President Theodore Roosevelt called the Gentleman’s agreement. It stated that Japan would stop issuing work permits and passports to Japanese attempting to travel to the U.S. In return, the U.S. agreed to accept the family of immigrants already in the community and to deter legal discrimination against Japanese American school children. Congress never ratified the agreement and it was ended by the Immigration Act of 1924.
WWII changed everything for Florin. Its population drastically reduced after WWII and the repercussions that came after it. Treatment of the Japanese immigrants and those Japanese Americans born in the U.S. began to drastically decline at every level of society. The bombing of Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii by the Japanese tragically endangered those Japanese in the U.S. President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. It authorized the internment of thousands upon thousands of Japanese aliens as well as American-born Japanese. The count is approximated at 120,000. They were detained in concentration camps. Some were forced to leave their homes, jobs and families behind. The majority of the detained were said to be school aged children and adults. The purpose of the order was to keep all Japanese away from certain areas such as coastlines extending from Washington state to California and spreading inland to southern Arizona.
Once the evacuation of Florin’s Japanese citizens had begun, the downward spiral of Florin was not far behind. WWII, the depression and the influx of grapes imported from around the world finished off Florin’s productive era. Some of the immigrants eventually returned to Florin, but it was never again such a thriving Japanese American community. By the 1950’s the agricultural boom was defeated and land development in the area was ramping up. Slowly, Florin became less of a town and more of a community or neighborhood. The once lush and fertile fields brought about by the Japanese farmers is now strip malls and shopping centers, homes and parks.
World War II, Pearl Harbor, and the internment changed the entire country but Florin was effected in a very personal way. It was a booming town torn apart by government and world politics. Many of its oldest building still stand and are in use. The local government has been renovating the area and cultivating a strong historical presence in Sacramento. The lessons of the past are still on display in this charming and significant Sacramento community along Florin Road.