July 14, 2009

more Jack London State Park


click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

I instantly fell in love with this painting hanging in the Jack London museum -- that's Sonoma Mountain just to the west of the ranch.

The museum is located about a quarter mile away from Jack's home and office, and was built after his death by his second wife Charmain.   Although she called it "her home" and has rooms upstairs that look like they could have been lived in -- it never was.   A state-of-the-art tiled kitchen was never used except to store Charmain's large collection of table and serving ware.   A framed note by Charmain in the museum reads:

In case of my death, it is my wish that my home, "House With Happy Walls", is not to be lived in by anyone except a caretaker.   This building and it's arrangements are particularly an expression of myself, and its ultimate purpose is that of a museum to Jack London and myself.   It can be used for the purpose of revenue.
s/ Carmain K. Soudon, Jack London Ranch, April 28, 1938.


Well, Charmain's wishes were carried out, and today the structure continues to serve as a museum.   Today the "revenue" is collected by the State of California at the entrance to the park.   When I arrived the gatekeeper asked me;   "Are you 62 or older?", to which I replied;   "Well, no, I've got three weeks to go", whereapon she cut me some slack and only charged me the $5 senior fee.   Really made my day until I realized that, hey, I'm getting old...



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

This ornate window hardware is upstairs in the museum.   Charmain loved the finer things in life and no expense was spared in the construction of "her home".   Outside the window is a grove of redwood trees, most likely planted by Charmain.   Oaks and madrones grow naturally in the area.



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

This "still life" is not from the museum, but from a bedroom in Jack London's home.   Despite London's success and money, indoor plumbing still hadn't arrived at Beauty Ranch.

A nice feature of Jack London's home is the sleeping-porch where he died in 1916.   The docent pointed out that for some unknown and strange reason the windows of the sleeping-porch open inwards.



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

This is a wall of the winery, which burned in 1977.   The distillery still stands.

I probably don't have to tell you that the Napa Valley is highly regarded for it's viticulture, and a winery and distillery were a major part of London's "Beauty Ranch".

As I mentioned yesterday, Jack died of kidney failure at the early age of 40, and I initially supposed that wine and spirits might have been factor in his demise, but I found the following information on his death in Wikipedia:

"Many older sources describe his death as a suicide, and some still do.   However, this appears to be at best a rumor, or speculation based on incidents in his fiction writings.   His death certificate gives the cause as uremia, following acute renal colic, a type of pain often described as "the worst pain ever experienced", commonly caused by kidney stones.   Uremia is also known as uremic poisoning.   He died November 22, 1916, in a sleeping porch in a cottage on his ranch.   He was in extreme pain and taking morphine, and it is possible that a morphine overdose, accidental or deliberate, may have contributed."


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