"The Docks" has had a remarkably varied occupational history. Gold Rush immigrants camped along the riverbank. In the following years, a limited number of individuals and families lived in the area in private residences and lodging houses. From the beginning of Euro-American occupation, however, the area was dominated by commercial and industrial activity because of its location adjacent to a navigational river. Speculators; small businesses including saloons, fish wholesalers, bakeries and groceries; larger enterprises such as produce wholesalers, lumber wholesalers, box manufacturers, iron foundries, transportation companies, reduction plants, soap manufacturers, distilleries and warehouse companies; and City agents consisting of the Harbor Master and Poundmaster all contributed to the history of the area.
However, the dominance of industry that inhibited residential and retail use largely ended by the 1930s. The southern waterfront's excellent river, rail and, later, trucking facilities supported a variety of primary and secondary industries during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Rail and truck services, however, was not bound to the riverfront locations. Eventually, industries dependent on the rail systems also vanished when the transportation service was eliminated as a result of growing truck competition. Thus, the economic momentum provided by geography and transportation was lost.
In the early 1960s, the new Port of Sacramento was created. This West Sacramento facility, with its deep-water channel, completely displaced the old waterfront facilities that had evolved on the Sacramento waterfront. Redevelopment efforts in the 1960s changed the physical character of the neighborhood with the leveling of many of the blocks. This left an isolated, open space which belies the bustling activity of most of the area's history. Gone were landmarks showing the presents of the Gold Rush entrepreneurs; the many generations of hotel operators at 1323 Front Street; most of the 19th-century industries; the many laborers, including the Austrian, Italian and Greek immigrants who predominated there at the turn-of-the-century; and the river and rail traffic that produced the heatbeat of "The Docks."
The construction of the I-5 freeway in the late 1960s brought the destruction of most of the old buildings that still lined Front Street.