Jack London State Historic Park

We recommend the Valley of the Moon Historical Society's Jack London Park Site for the most current information. This site is an archive.

Upper portion Jack London Park

Upper Portion of Jack London Park with view towards Sonoma Mountain

 

 

"The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame. Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smoulders in the drowsy sky. 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

Park Highlights.

The House of Happy Walls (Museum)

Built by Charmian London in 1919-26, this house is similar to Wolf House in some ways - the Spanish-style roof tiles and walls of field stone, for example - but it is much smaller and more formal. Charmian lived here whenever she was not traveling abroad or staying with relatives. After her death in 1955 at the age of 84, her will directed that the house be used as a memorial to Jack London and as a museum that would house the London collection of photographs and exhibits about the life and adventures of the world-famous author. It also contains a park visitor center where you can purchase books by and about Jack London.

Much of the furniture in the house was designed by the Londons and custom-built for use in Wolf House. The library is furnished with equipment from London's study. The big roll top desk, the Dictaphone, and some of the other items on exhibit here appear in old photographs showing London at work.


Jack and Charmian London's Grave Site

The grave site is reached by a short trail from the museum.

Jack London's ashes were placed on the little hill close beside the plain wooden headboards that marked the graves of two pioneer children. The final ceremony was simple and without ritual, 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 wreathed with primroses and bearing his ashes was sealed within a specially made cement receptacle and, in Sterling's own words:

"Amid the profound silence of the on-lookers, 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."


The Wolf House

Jack London's dream house burned to the bare walls on a hot August night in 1913, weeks before he was to move in. Today, an impressive ruin remains to show what a magnificent home it would have been.

From the museum, the trail to Wolf House is a little over a half-mile long and slopes gently downhill. It is recommended that you allow an hour or more for the one-mile trip. The trail wanders through a beautiful mixed forest of oaks, madrones, California buckeye, Douglas fir, and Coastal Redwoods. Ferns, manzanita, and a wide range of other shrubs and small flowering plants (Indian warrior, hound's tongue, buttercups, poppies) thrive in this area along with many kinds of birds and other forms of wildlife.

The remains of Wolf House still vividly remind visitors of Jack and Charmian's original dream. Stone walls complete with window openings, fireplaces, and other details appear little changed by the passage of time. They make it 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 long outdoor pool was to be stocked with mountain bass. Inside, there was a library and above that, isolated from the rest of the house, a large workroom for Jack. A fireproof vault in the basement was designed to house his collection of manuscripts and other valuables. The two-story living room featured a massive fireplace and an alcove for Charmian's grand piano. The dining room could seat as many as fifty people, and there were numerous guest rooms. Downstairs there was a big game room for men only.

The entire house stood on an extra-thick concrete slab that was intended to be earthquake Proof. Double-thick concrete walls were intended to be fireproof. Modern utility systems were installed and every detail of hardware or trim was of the very highest quality, for money was no object The house was supposed to be magnificent.

Over the years, many theories have been advanced about the cause of the fire which destroyed the magnificent Wolf House. In 1995, a team of forensic experts, led by Bob Anderson, visited the site for several days to determine the cause of the fire. Their report concluded that the fire was caused by a pile of rags soaked with linseed oil, which ignited spontaneously on that hot August night in 1913.


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View from the Beauty Ranch towards the Valley of the Moon and the Mayacamas Mountains.


The Beauty Ranch

The Beauty Ranch Trail
, approximately one-half mile long, circles through the center of the 1,400 acres of land that London called his "Beauty Ranch". Between 1905 and 1916, London planted fruit, grain, and vegetable crops in this area, and raised fine horses, pigs, cattle and other animals as breeding stock. Many of the buildings were designed and built by London as part of his effort to develop and demonstrate new agricultural techniques that could be shared with farmers every where.

The buildings remaining on the property include the Sherry Barn, originally built by Chinese laborers for the Kohler and Frohling winery. London converted it to a stable for his English Shire horses. The Manure Pit was built by Italian stonemasons in 1914 to store manure for later distribution in the fields. The Stallion Barn housed six of London's highly prized shire horses. The "Cottage," was London's principal home on the Beauty Ranch. This wood-framed cottage was purchased by London in 1911 along with the Kohler and Frohling winery buildings. It was enlarged after 1911 until it included some 3,000 square feet of living space. In 2006, restoration of the cottage was completed and the re-furnished cottage was opened to visitors.  The cottage is now open only on week-ends. Here he wrote most of his later stories and novels. The main Kohler and Frohling winery building was heavily damaged in the 1906 earthquake. London used the foundation of the ruin and built an upper story wooden building which was used as a carriage house, living quarters for ranch hands, and rooms for his many guests. A fire destroyed the upper stories in 1965. The Distillery building, originally constructed in 1888 as part of the old winery, was used by London's ranch hands to store and repair farm equipment. The ruins of a blacksmith shop can be seen on the west side. The Pig Palace, so named by neighboring farmers, was designed by London and built in 1915. Laid out in a circle to save labor, the piggery's central feedhouse is surrounded by 17 pens. Each family of pigs had its own area; a courtyard with feed and water troughs, roofed sleeping area, and a fenced outdoor run. The piggery was designed to efficiently care for prized breeding pigs in a sanitary environment. There are two cement block silos, which were erected between 1912 and 1915. The silos stand over 40 feet tall and held silage - fodder, made by cutting up green forage plants.


How to get there: From Santa Rosa, take Highway 12. Turn right on Arnold drive; in the center of Glen Ellen turn right on London Ranch Road. From Sonoma, take Highway 12.   Turn left on Madrone Road, right on Arnold drive, left on London Ranch Road.

- There are no campsites in this park; there is camping at near-by Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

- Picnic tables and barbecue pits are available; ground fires and portable stoves are prohibited.

- Park hours are 9:30 AM to 5 PM. The museum in the House of Happy Walls is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Days. The cottage is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. on week-end days.

- There is ample parking in the park.

- There are a few rattlesnakes and there is poison oak; it is advisable to stay on the trails.

Trails beyond the Beauty Ranch trail lead to London's Lake and Bathhouse and beyond, to the summit of Sonoma Mountain.

On week-end days, there are docent-led walks which offer visitors interpretive talks of the history and ecology of the park. The Schedule is updated monthly.


Read about Jack London - the author, rancher and adventurer.

Books written by Jack London

2400 London Ranch Road
Glen Ellen, California 95442
Telephone (707) 938-5216


For Volunteer Opportunities contact:

Susan St.Marie
Volunteer Coordinator
Valley of the Moon State Parks
sstmarie@parks.ca.gov
707-938-4827


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