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Historic mansion stands in path of state skyscraper. What’s the solution?

The Heilbron House at Seventh and O streets was built in 1881 by German immigrant August Heilbron, who made his money in the cattle business. A large state office tower was planned for the site, but a new report indicates the mansion will be spared.
The Heilbron House at Seventh and O streets was built in 1881 by German immigrant August Heilbron, who made his money in the cattle business. A large state office tower was planned for the site, but a new report indicates the mansion will be spared. Sacramento Bee file

When plans emerged earlier this year for a massive new state office tower at the corner of Seventh and O streets in downtown Sacramento, local preservationists sounded the alarm. That corner has been the site of the historic Heilbron House for nearly 140 years – and the office project threatened to destroy or move the mansion.

But a draft environmental impact report being circulated by the state’s Department of General Services paints a best-case scenario for those hoping to preserve a slice of the city’s past.

The Heilbron House will be preserved and a new Resources Building will be constructed around the mansion, according to a draft environmental impact report. It remains unclear how that will work, however.

DGS is leading the planning of a new high-rise tower at the site to replace the decrepit Resources Building on Ninth Street. The new building is expected to be one of the largest built downtown in years at around 20 stories and 300 feet tall. It will accommodate up to 3,500 state workers. Construction on the project could start by the end of next year.

DGS had been considering three options: tearing down the Heilbron House, moving the mansion to another site or keeping the historic building. The decision to keep it where it is represents a major victory for local preservationists, who lobbied for the building to be kept or moved (some other historic mansions downtown have been moved).

August Heilbron, who made his fortune in cattle, built the stately Victorian-style home in 1881. The family owned the house until the 1950s, and it has served as a restaurant, a bank and an art gallery. About 20 state parks employees currently work in the mansion.

According to the EIR: “Repairs and minor rehabilitation to the exterior of the Heilbron House, such as repainting and replacement of missing trim, would be done in a manner that maintains the historic integrity of the building and consistent with Secretary of the Interior standards for treatment of historic buildings.”

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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