Our Story

Beginning in 2012, The Tannery building started a revival – including its name – now known as Tannery Row. New businesses have moved in and additional shops are in the works.

It’s a sweet spot in Benicia, where you can shop for an ever-changing array of antiques and collectibles, join an art class, enjoy lunch at a sidewalk cafe, or have a frothy beer on tap after a long day.

Along-the-Waterfrontx500Tannery Row Benicia is on Carquinez Strait; you’re never more than a few feet from the water. Visitors walk from our shops out onto the Pier to enjoy watching fishermen, sailors, tourists from around the world, and birds.

Benicia served as the state capital for nearly 13 months from 1853 to 1854 (Monterey, San Jose and Vallejo also took turns until the seat of California government finally settled in Sacramento).

Canneries and Tanneries

During the 19th century, canneries and tanneries formed the core of Benicia’s economy. The earliest tannery, the Pioneer Tannery, was founded in 1864 and underwent several changes of ownership. Within a short time period others followed, creating a cluster of tanneries.

In 1869, Robert Shaw opened the Shaw Tannery. This tannery changed hands in 1873 to be operated by Charles Moore and Fred Cummings. Unfortunately, the complex burned down that same year.

Tannery Row Benicia Shops.

According to the “History of Solano County,” compiled in 1879 by Munro J. P. Fraser, “The new firm had hardly got in good working order, when the whole establishment, in a few short hours, was destroyed by fire. This was a severe blow to the young men composing the firm; but Mr. E. Danforth, an old resident of Benicia, having confidence in their business qualifications, skill and enterprise, furnished them the means to build and conduct the tannery now owned and run by them at the foot of First street.”

The Benicia Tannery

The new establishment was renamed the Benicia Tannery and developed into a large operation covering two acres of land. It included a three-story high currying shop, drying rooms, a bark-mill and an immense bark shed that held up to six hundred cords of tan bark. The tan bark was brought in every fall with an estimated value of $10,000. The Benicia Tannery produced 18 different kinds of leather, employed between 30 and 40 people and had a payroll of more than $2,000 per month.