Heinold's "First and Last Chance Saloon"
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Built from the timbers of a whaling ship, this famous bar in Jack London Square in Oakland has operated continuously since 1883. It takes part of its name from its original owner, Johnny Heinold. As a teenager, Jack London sat at the tables in this bar studying. Later, he returned and wrote the notes for "Call of the Wild" and "The Sea Wolf."
At age 17, London confided to Johnny Heinold his ambition to go to the University of California and become a writer. Johnny lent London the money for tuition and, although he never got beyond his first year, it was while studying at this saloon and listening to the stories of shipmates and stevedores that he developed his thirst for adventure. The theme of men bravely facing danger appears throughout the best of his works. Indeed Johnny Heinold and The First and Last Chance Saloon are referenced seventeen times in London's novel John Barleycorn. Heinold's saloon was where he met Alexander McLean, known for such cruelty at sea that his boat was nicknamed The Hell Ship. At the time of its writing, McLean became a model for London's Wolf Larsen in The Sea Wolf. With the help of Johnny Heinold, the deals for London's three ships, the Razzle Dazzle, the Snark and the Roamer were struck in this bar.
Jack London is not the only spirit that keeps us company in these walls. Robert Louis Stevenson spent time here while waiting for his ship to be outfitted for his final cruise to Samoa. Other notables to sit at this bar include Joaquin Miller, Erskine Caldwell and Ambrose Bierce.
As a result of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the floor in the bar tilted.The pilings underneath the saloon settled in the mud and subsequent efforts to shore up the floor proved unsuccessful. You can still note the time of the quake from the clock on the wall that stopped for the occasion.
Today new construction over and behind the bar have it shrouded to protect it, as seen in the photo.