Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Eugene O'Neal National Historic Site

On March 29th after seeing the John Muir home and the Martinez Adobe home from the Juan Bautista de Anza site, I drove over to Danville, CA on my way back to San Jose to see the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site since I didn't know what it was.
Web Photo
Since I'm from the Bay Area, I knew the best routes to make my days valuable and  I did make a HUGE discovery.  Don't rely on the National Park App in your phone for addresses and ALWAYS check the website online.  Usually, when going to National parks and historical locations, we just drive there, but this particular location was quite challenging as you drive up into a very tight, narrow, hilly neighborhood with one-car access on the roads.  Plus, to make matters worse, a tree-trimming service was there block what small road there was.  I would NEVER had been able to bring the rig here and it I had, we would have been stuck forever...or many hours until we could have maneuvered it back down the hill in reverse.  So, always check all each visitor's center before going to see if there is RV access if you drive an RV.
At any rate, I had driven the car to the entrance of the site but the gates were closed and locked.  It was here that I called the visitor center number and discovered the call routes to another location.  The person at that location contacts the visitor center to have you picked up at the bottom of the hill.  Well, the guy said they were at the bottom of the hill right then and heading up so I drove down the hill a little bit to a place where I could park just down from the entrance and found a small place I could barely fit.  Just as I parked they van picked me up with one other lady inside and we got a tour of the O'Neill house.
I had never heard of Eugene O'Neill before so this site was interesting to me.  First off, Eugene O'Neill was an American playwright winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1936 as well a multiple Pulitzer Prizes for Drama in 1922, 1928 and 1957 with Long Day's Journey into Night.  He also won a Tony Award for Best Play in 1957 and New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Long Day's Journey Into Night.  He also won American Academy of Arts and Letter Gold Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play in 1957 ad 1974 for A Moon for this Misbegotten and Long Days Journey.  His other works included: Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Strange Interlude (1928), Ah! Wilderness (1933) and The Iceman Cometh (1946).  His crowning glory, Long Day's Journey, was published posthumously in 1956. 
Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was born on October 16, 1888 in New York City.  He was the youngest of three sons born to James O'Neill who was an actor and Mary Ellen Quinlan (Ella) who followed her husband all around the country. He had two older brothers - James Jr. and Edmund Burke O'Neill.  Before Eugene was born, his mother had gone to Denver to be with James Sr. and while gone she left he boys with her mother where they contracted measles and Edmund died.  Ella blamed James Jr. saying he purposefully gave his brother the disease and caused his death.  James Jr. was sent to boarding school and she never wanted children again.  However, Eugene was born in a hotel and spent his early youth in hotel rooms, on trains and backstage.  After his birth, his mother was prescribed morphine and this became a life-long addiction cause Eugene much insecurity and anxiety.  Once, he walked in on his mother giving herself an injection.  James Sr. later took her to the stage with him where she would just sit in a drug-induced stupor.  Later, Eugene was educated in Catholic boarding schools and summers at home.  He attended Princeton for one year in 1906-07 and then left to start his life experience which nearly proved fatal as he went to sea, lived a derelict's existence, drank and attempted suicide.  After living in a sanatorium when he was recuperating from tuberculosis,  he turned to what he knew best - the stage and started writing.  Many of Eugene O'Neill's plays are derived around his mother's life.
Web Photo
Eugene was married three times.  First to Kathleen Jenkins (1909-1912) and they had one son, Eugene O'Neill, Jr.  They divorced and he then married Agnes Bolton, a writer, and they married in 1918.  They divorced in 1929.  They had children Shane O'Neill and Oona O'Neill (who he disowned after she married Charlie Chaplin in 1943.  She was 18 and he was 54! - He never saw her again).  Finally, he married actress Carlotta Monterey (1929-1953).  They had no children.  She was very controlling over who came and saw Eugene at the home in Danville.  If they made Eugene upset or angry, they were not allowed back to their home - not even family.  Carlotta received a bad rap because of this big Eugene was her priority.  Eugene family life was also tragic.  After disowning his daughter, his oldest son Eugene O'Neill Jr. suffered from alcoholism and committed suicide in 1950 and his youngest son, Shane became a heroin addict, sold a lot of their furnishings and was disowned by Eugene.  Shane later committed suicide in 1977 as well.
His Father's Portrait
Family Photos
As Eugene O'Neill aged, he had multiple health problems including depression and alcoholism but the worst was his Parkinson's tremors which made his writing smaller and smaller.  Carlotta was his scribe and her eyesight started to leave her.  The bright lights caused her headaches and with Eugene's tremors, his handwriting was so small it's any wonder she could read it.  I couldn't at all.  Carlotta was going blind.
Such tiny writing!!
Eugene died in a hotel room #401 in 1953...born in a hotel and died in a hotel.

After his death, Carlotta wanted his most famous play, Long Day's Journey into Night to be published, but the publisher refused because Eugene had placed a 25 year hold on that play to be published.   The crux of the play was that it was his life.  However, Carlotta, being nearly destitute told the publishers that Eugene has always said, "It was the ace in the hole" for their older life.  Well, the play was given critical acclaim and also helped Carlotta live under her death in 1970 and it was given a Pulitzer Prize posthumously.
Web Photo
The home - Tao House - that he and Carlotta lived was a place of serenity and quiet.  Carlotta loved Asian influences and so she made the ground very Zen-like and even the rooms were simple and plain.  Above, previously posted, you can see the entrance to the house and the front.  Here are some photos of this simplistic house.  The first room is the entry and stairs.  These masks greet you when you come into the home.  Kind of an odd greeting, but interesting.  All the ceiling are painted dark blue except for Eugene's study, which he painted red.
Next, we entered into the main living room.  Notice the area where a large window should be overlooking the valley.  Carlotta was very sensitive to light so she had that bricked in.
The next room was a guest bedroom.  Notice the area on both sides of the window.  There were originally murals there and the Eugene O'Neill foundation is in the process of restoring them.  Notice the pink and green bathroom.  To the right of the photo below you can see that full-length doors opened onto the front courtyard.
These room are on the one wing of the house.  Next we ventured upstairs to Carlotta's bedroom.
Eugene's bedroom was next door.  This was his bed - a Chinese coffee table!  They even have a pair of his boxer shorts on display!!  An interesting note:  Most of the furniture in the home came from Gump's furniture makers in San Francisco.  After O'Neill's death, Gump's took back most of the furnishings - as was the clause - but Katherine Hepburn, being part of O'Neill's Foundation, wrote a letter to Gumps: "Dear Gump, What can I give you to sell back the bed?  Think and be kind; you are Gump's".  Thanks to that letter, Gump's returned the bed to the O'Neill home and O'Neill foundation.
Eugene O'Neill's Bed
The room next to Eugene's bedroom was his office.  He had this room painted red because of the love of the sea and the adage: "Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight".  He loved things nautical and you'll see this evident on one wall.  There are reportedly 8,000 volumes of books throughout the house.
Our tour guide, Alan Hill
You can see how Eugene O'Neill's handwriting changed over the years.
Next we went downstairs to the other wing of the house which comprised of the large dining room, two-room kitchen and servants quarters.
From here, you are in the visitor's center area of the back part of the home - the garage.
Once we concluded here, we were free to roam around the grounds for about 15-20 minutes.  Here are a few from the backyard and land. The other lady walked over to the pool.
From here I decided to photograph the courtyard because of what the tour guide said about Carlotta making paths causing you to walk slowly in the garden and not be rushed.  I loved looking in all the nooks and cranny's of the yard.
Gorgeous Geraniums
This is a small gardener's cottage that is now used by the Eugene O'Neill Foundation
for those who would like to spend time writing in peace and solitude.
I learned a lot of interesting things about Eugene O'Neill and I have to say this is a very unique place to visit.  I loved being here during spring with the hills a limey-green - my favorite time of year in California before everything becomes dead and gold.

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