Jack London

Park Brochure

brochure Jack London - Park Brochure
Jack London State Historic Park Our Mission The mission of the California Department of Parks and Recreation is to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. California State Parks supports equal access. Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who need assistance should contact the park at (707) 938-5216. This publication is available in alternate formats by contacting: CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS P. O. Box 942896 Sacramento, CA 94296-0001 For information call: (800) 777-0369 (916) 653-6995, outside the U.S. 711, TTY relay service www.parks.ca.govv Discover the many states of California.™ Jack London State Historic Park 2400 London Ranch Road Glen Ellen, CA 95442 (707) 938-5216 © 1994 California State Parks (Rev. 2008) Printed on Recycled Paper he grapes on a score of Trolling hills are red with “ autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing . . . I have everything to make me glad I am alive. (I am filled with dreams and mysteries. I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalized, organic.)” —Jack London J ack London was first attracted to the Sonoma Valley by its magnificent natural landscape. He had fought his way up out of the factories and waterfront dives of West Oakland to become one of the highest paid, most popular and prolific writers of his day. Although he had sailed the world over, this gentle landscape made him feel at home and anchored in the land. life and death and the struggle to survive with dignity and integrity, he also sought peace and quiet inspiration. His stories of high adventure were based on his own experiences at sea, in Alaska, or in the fields and factories of California. His writings appealed to millions worldwide. Jack London was also widely known for his personal exploits. Jack London at work He was a colorful, controversial personality, often in the news. Generally fun loving, he was quick to side with the The first inhabitants underdog against injustice of any kind. For thousands of years, these high hills, deep An eloquent public speaker, he was much canyons, fields and streams were home to sought after as a lecturer on socialism and the Coast Miwok people. They lived in small other economic and political topics. Most autonomous villages, with leadership from people considered London a living symbol heads of the largest and most influential of rugged individualism, a man whose families. Their lives began to change fabulous success was not due to special favor drastically around the early- to mid-1800s, of any kind, but to a combination of immense when the arrival of Europeans and other mental ability and vitality. settlers introduced serious diseases that Strikingly handsome, full of laughter, killed many natives. The remaining Miwok restless and courageous, always eager for were forced into servitude. adventure, Jack London was one of the most Today Coast Miwok descendants still live romantic figures of his time. in the area. The Coast Miwok and some of He ascribed his worldwide literary success the Southern Pomo have joined together largely to hard work—to “dig,” as he put as the Federally-recognized tribe known as it. Between 1900 and 1916, he completed the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. more than 50 fiction and nonfiction books, Jack London hundreds of short stories and numerous The author was born on January 12, 1876. By articles. Several of the books and many of the age 30, London was internationally famous short stories are classics and still popular; for Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea Wolf some have been translated into as many as (1904) and other literary and journalistic 70 languages. accomplishments. Though he wrote In addition to his many commitments, passionately about the great questions of London carried on voluminous correspondence (he received some 10,000 letters per year), read proofs of his work as it went to press, and negotiated with his agents and publishers. He spent time overseeing construction of his custombuilt sailing ship, the Snark (1906-1907); the construction of his dream house, Wolf House (1910-1913); and the operation of his farm, Beauty Ranch, after 1911. The natural beauty of Sonoma Valley was not lost on Jack London. The magnificent vistas and rolling hills of Glen Ellen were an ideal place for Jack and Charmian London to relax and enjoy the natural life. “When I first came here, tired of cities and people, I settled down on a little farm . . . 130 acres of the most beautiful, primitive land to be found in California.” Though the farm was badly run down, he reveled in its natural beauty. “All I wanted,” he said later, “was a quiet place in the country to write and loaf in and get out of Nature that something which we all need, only the most of us don’t know it.” Soon, however, he was busy buying farm equipment and livestock for his “mountain ranch.” He began work on a new barn and started planning a fine new house. “This is to be no summer-residence proposition,” he wrote to his publisher in June 1905, “but a home all the year round. I am anchoring Big House (1916)—was good and solid, and about the simple anchoring for keeps.” pleasures of country Living and owning life, the satisfaction of land near Glen making a living from Ellen was a way the land and remaining of escaping from close to nature. Oakland—from the Jack and Charmian city way of life he London’s dream house called “the manbegan to take shape Jack and Charmian London aboard the Snark trap.” But, restless early in 1911 when a and eager for foreign well-known San Francisco architect, Albert travel and adventure, he decided to build Farr, created the drawings and sketches for a ship, the Snark, and go sailing around the Wolf House. Farr then supervised the early world—exploring, writing, adventuring— stages of construction of a grand house that enjoying the “big moments of living” that he was to remain standing for a thousand years. craved and that would give him still more By August 1913, London had spent about material to write about. $80,000, and the project was nearly complete. The voyage, which was to last seven On August 22, final cleanup got underway, years and take Jack and Charmian around and plans were laid for moving the Londons’ the world, lasted just 27 months and took specially designed, custom-built furniture them only as far as the South Pacific and and other personal belongings into the Australia. Discouraged by health problems mansion. That night at 2:00 a.m., word came and heartbroken about having to abandon that the house was burning. By the time the the trip and sell the Snark, London returned Londons arrived on the scene, the house to the ranch in Glen Ellen. was ablaze, the roof had collapsed, and even Between 1909 and 1911 he bought more a stack of lumber some distance away was land, and in 1911 he moved from Glen burning. Nothing could Ellen to a small ranch house in the middle be done. of his holdings. On horseback he explored London looked at every canyon, glen and hilltop. He threw the fire philosophically, himself into a farming style of the period, but the loss was a termed scientific agriculture, as one of the crushing financial few justifiable, basic and idealistic ways of blow and the end of a making a living. A significant portion of his long-cherished dream. later writing—Burning Daylight (1910), Valley Rumors abounded of the Moon (1913) and Little Lady of the about the cause of the fire. In 1995 a group of forensic fire experts visited the site, concluding that the fire had resulted from spontaneous combustion in a pile of linseed oil-soaked rags left by workers. London planned to rebuild Wolf House, but at the time of his death in 1916 the house remained as it stands today, the stark but eloquent vestige of a shattered dream. The loss of Wolf House left London depressed, but he forced himself to go back to work. He added a new writer’s study to the ranch house he had occupied since 1911. Occasionally London went to New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles on business. He spent time living and working aboard his 30-foot yawl, the Roamer, which he sailed around San Francisco Bay and the nearby Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. In 1914 he was a war correspondent in Mexico, covering the role of U.S. troops and Navy ships in the Villa-Carranza revolt. In 1915 and again in 1916, Charmian persuaded him to spend time in Hawaii, where London seemed better able to relax and more willing to take care of himself. But his greatest satisfaction came from his ranch activities. His ambitious plans to expand the ranch and increase its productivity kept him in debt and under pressure to write as fast as he could, even though it might mean sacrificing quality in Jack London’s office favor of quantity. smaller and more When his doctors formal. Charmian urged him to change lived here when she his work habits and was not traveling his diet, stop all use abroad or staying of alcohol and get with relatives. After more exercise, he her death in 1955 refused. If anything, at the age of 84, her the pressure will directed that of his financial the house be used commitments to as a memorial to The House of Happy Walls helping friends and Jack London and relatives and his increasingly severe health as a museum housing their collection of problems only made him dream larger photographs and exhibits about London’s dreams and work harder and faster. life and adventures. On November 22, 1916, 40-year-old Jack Much of the house’s furnishings were London died of gastrointestinal uremic designed by the Londons and custom poisoning. He had been suffering from built for Wolf House. The library contains a variety of ailments, including a kidney equipment from London’s study. The rolltop condition, but up to the last day of his life, desk, the Dictaphone and some other items he was full of bold plans and boundless appear in old photographs showing London enthusiasm for the future. Words of grief at work. poured into the telegraph office in Glen WOLF HOUSE Ellen from all over the world. The trail to Wolf House is a little “No writer, unless it were Mark Twain, more than a half-mile long and ever had a more romantic life than Jack slopes gently downhill. The oneLondon. The untimely death of this mile roundtrip takes an hour or most popular of American fictionists has more. The trail wanders through profoundly shocked a world that expected a beautiful mixed forest. Ferns, him to live and work for many years longer.” manzanita and a wide range of (Ernest J. Hopkins in the San Francisco other shrubs and small flowering Bulletin, December 2, 1916) plants thrive here, along with The House of Happy Walls many kinds of birds and other Built by Charmian London between 1919 forms of wildlife. The remains of and 1926, this house is somewhat similar Wolf House still remind visitors to Wolf House—the Spanish-style roof tiles of Jack and Charmian’s original and walls of fieldstone, for example—but is dream. Stone walls, complete with window openings, fireplaces and other details, appear little changed by the passage of time. It is easy to see how grand the house was intended to be. Native materials were chosen and carefully matched to one another—boulders of maroon lava, unpeeled redwood logs outside and redwood paneling inside. The Spanish-style roof was dark red and matched the stone walls. The outdoor pool was to be stocked with mountain bass. Inside, there was a library and a large, isolated workroom for Jack. A fireproof vault in the basement was to house his collection of manuscripts and other valuables. The two-story living room had a massive fireplace and an alcove for Charmian’s grand piano. The dining room would have seated 50 people, and there were numerous guest rooms. The house stood on an extra-thick concrete slab intended to be earthquake proof. Double-thick concrete walls were intended to be fireproof. Modern utility systems were installed, and every detail was of the highest quality, for money was no object. The house would have been magnificent. The Grave Site Jack London’s ashes were placed on the little hill close beside the plain wooden headboards marking the graves of Wolf House ruins Sherry Barn Constructed by Chinese laborers in 1884 for the Kohler and Frohling winery, the Sherry Barn became a stable for London’s highlyprized purebred shire horses. Jack London’s grave two pioneer children. The final ceremony was simple, attended only by a few members of London’s immediate family, his old friend George Sterling and workmen from the ranch. A small copper urn bearing his ashes was sealed within a specially made receptacle, and in Sterling’s own words: “Amid the profound silence of the onlookers, a huge boulder—a great block of red lava long-pitted by time and enriched by the moss of uncounted years—was urged by roller and crowbar above the sepulcher. “Then the party dispersed as quietly as it had gathered, the stillness making it a funeral impressive beyond all memory of those in attendance. No word, aside from a brief whisper, had been said. The thirteen strong men of the ranch faced the bearers of the remains in silence, and as silently departed.” PARK FEATURES Eucalyptus Trees Some of the 81,000 eucalyptus trees near Beauty Ranch are visible from the picnic area. Stallion Barn This barn housed six of London’s shire horses. Manure Pit In 1914 Jack London hired Italian stonemasons to build this pit to store fertilizer for later distribution in the fields. He also built an elaborate system to gather and store liquid fertilizer from his cow barn. Note the contrast in construction techniques between the protruding stones of the Italian-built structures and the flush stones of the Chinese-built winery buildings. Cottage Jack London purchased this wood-framed cottage and the old Kohler & Frohling winery buildings in 1911. The cottage was later enlarged to include about 3,000 square feet of living space. Jack’s study on the west side was added in 1914. Here he wrote many of his later stories and novels. The stone-walled east wing, originally part of the old winery, was used as a dining room. The glassed porch to the right of the front door is where Jack died on November 22, 1916. Winery Ruins The Kohler & Frohling Winery, heavily damaged by the 1906 earthquake, was used as a carriage house, living quarters for ranch hands and rooms for guests. A fire destroyed the wooden upper stories in 1965. Terraced Hillside View London’s steeper fields were graded into terraces to retain moisture and prevent erosion. Some of those original terraces are still being used today. Distillery This building was used by the ranch hands to store and repair farm equipment. The ruins of a blacksmith shop are on the west side. The cottage where London wrote Pig Palace This unique piggery was designed by London and built in 1915. Laid out The Pig Palace in a circle, its central feedhouse is circled by 17 pens. Each family of pigs had a courtyard with feed and water troughs, a roofed sleeping area and a fenced outdoor run. Silos These cement-block silos stand over 40 feet high. They once held fodder made from cut-up forage plants. London Lake About three-quarters of a mile up the trail beyond the silos, London built a curving stone dam with a shallow, five-acre lake. Featuring a redwood bathhouse, the lake was often enjoyed by the Londons and their guests. Beyond the lake, the trail passes through madrone, manzanita, redwood, Douglas fir, grassy meadows and oak woodland. The Valley of the Moon vista is visible just below the 2,463-foot summit of Sonoma Mountain. The strenuous 6.6-mile round trip takes about three hours. Please bring your own drinking water. Accessible Features Restroom: A portable restroom in the upper picnic area is generally accessible. A portable restroom on the Wolf House service road is the only wheelchairaccessible restroom available to the public. Parking: The lower parking area has three spaces designated accessible. Assistance may be required with slopes. The paved 400foot route from the lot to the Museum may be accessible for assisted wheelchair users or strong riders. Accessibility is continually improving. For current accessibility details, call the park at (707) 938-5216 or visit http://access.parks. ca.gov. London lake PLEASE REMEMBER • Picnic tables and barbecue pits are available; ground fires and portable stoves are prohibited. • The museum in the House of Happy Walls is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Monday except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days. • Be alert for rattlesnakes and poison oak. • Dogs must be kept on a leash; they are not allowed in the museum or on hiking trails. • Don’t trespass on private property surrounding the park; help us be good neighbors. NOTE: Forest roads (unpaved, red-dashed roads) are difficult to bike. Please ride with caution. This park is supported in part through a nonprofit organization. For more information, contact Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442 www.jacklondonpark.com

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