San Francisco has been the scene for several distinguished literary works such as “The Maltese Falcon,” “Around the World in 80 Days” and “The Joy Luck Club” and three of California’s five literary landmarks are based in the city. But the East Bay also has its share of literary landmarks, from some of the most famous novelists in American history to members of the counter-culture movement of the 1960s. In fact, well before Occupy Oakland took over Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall, Jack London, Oakland’s most celebrated author, made nightly speeches there to tout the benefits of socialism before a crowd of admirers in the early 20th century. The following are five of the best literary landmarks in the East Bay.
Heinold’s First and Last Chance
48 Webster St.
Oakland, CA 94607
The most famous literary landmark in the entire East Bay is a small, seemingly run-down saloon with very little elbow room. But this 130-year-old building is of extreme historical significance as it was the favorite hangout for American novelist Jack London, who studied there as a teenager and penned notes for two of his most acclaimed classic novels, “The Call of the Wild” and “The Sea Wolf.” London, who’s also lauded for another timeless classic, “White Fang,” paid tribute by mentioning Heinhold’s First and Last Chance 17 times in his 1913 autobiographical novel “John Barleycorn.” Also known as the Jack London Rendezvous, Heinhold’s is one of just five California literary landmarks and appropriately located in the upscale Jack London Square shopping and dining complex along the Oakland Estuary.
Jack London’s Cabin
466 Water St.
Oakland, CA 94607
It’s merely a replica of the cabin Jack London lived in during the 19th century Klondike Gold Rush and it’s right next Heinhold’s First and Last Chance. But to leave this historic dwelling off a list of the East Bay’s best literary landmarks would be a monumental injustice. Rebuilt from logs of the original cabin in the Klondike within the Yukon region of northwestern Canada, London’s time spent there served as the inspiration for chronicling his most famous novel, “The Call of the Wild,” based upon a St. Bernard-Scotch Collie who served as a sled dog during the Klondike Gold Rush. A plaque adjacent to the cabin sheltered by towering palm trees in Jack London Square describes “Oakland’s native son” as “at various times, a sailor, Alaskan gold miner, salmon fisher and longshoreman.”
Jack London Square Ferry Terminal
466 Water St.
Oakland, CA 94607
Robert Louis Stevenson only briefly mentions the Oakland Ferry in his novel “The Silverado Squatters,” but his footprints are all across the East Bay. Before the famed Scottish novelist, known for such literary classics as “Treasure Island,” “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde” and “Kidnapped” married Fanny Van de Grift, Stevenson briefly lived at the fashionable Tubbs Hotel near Lake Merritt and across the Oakland Estuary in Alameda. Some literary critics suggest Stevenson may have been inspired to write “Treasure Island” during his time in the Bay Area and, like Jack London, spent time at Heinhold’s First and Last Chance before he and his wife left for Samoa onboard the Casco, a yacht owned by the mayor of Oakland, Dr. Samuel B. Merritt. The Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley has an extensive collection of Stevenson’s original work, including “Travel and Essays,” photographs and personal letters.
12th St. and Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
Contrary to Gertrude Stein’s famous account of her Oakland neighborhood in her book “Everybody’s Autobiography,” there is a “there there.” One of the famed novelist’s most famous phrases, which also includes “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” Stein wrote “there is no there, there” in recalling a return visit to her childhood home at 13th Avenue and East 25th Street, only to discover the house had been torn down. But in paying tribute to the American novelist whose circle of friends boasted Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemmingway, Henri Matisse and F. Scott Fitzgerald, talented artist Rosylyn Mazzilli created the brightly colored “There” sculpture, located in the Oakland City Center. Another tribute to Stein’s memoirs is a pair of sculptures in Oakland and Berkeley, created by artists Steve Gillman and Katherine Keefer. The first portion of the sculpture spells the word “HERE” and the other spells “THERE.” Lastly, prior to moving its operations to Jack London Square, the Oakland Tribune would frequently display a “There” sign outside the iconic Tribune building in downtown Oakland, once the tallest structure in the city and easily the most recognizable.
101 Sproul Hall
Berkeley, CA 94704
Established in 1868, Berkeley’s campus is the oldest in the University of California system. During its rich academic history, a number of gifted American novelists have studied at the university affectionately known as “CAL.” Among the most notable are Jack London, Frank Norris, Phillip Dick, Irving Stone and Amy Tan. The Berkeley campus, whose protests at Sproul Hall spawned the famous Free Speech Movement of the 1960s, drew other important writers to the East Bay, such as Beat Generation pioneers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer – who led anti-war speeches at Cal and portrayed the March on the Pentagon protests in “The Armies of the Night” – and James Michener, author of “Hawaii” and “The Drifters” whose characters began their journey in Berkeley.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.