One of our guest rooms is named after the famous local author Jack London. This room was renovated in 2021 and is now fully handicap-accessible. It is a beautiful downstairs room with a large bathroom and its own backdoor access to the parking lot. While Jack London never stayed here that we know of, he definitely spent a lot of time in Benicia when he was in his late teens. We hope you enjoy reading a little about Jack and his time in Benicia.
Jack London was born in San Francisco as John Griffith Chaney but was called Jack. His mother married John London, and Jack took his step-father’s last name. Jack went to elementary school in Oakland, where he worked long hours in a cannery and was always reading books he borrowed from the Oakland Library. At 16 he left Oakland for Benicia, bought a sloop called the “Razzle-Dazzle” from an oyster pirate named French Frank with borrowed money, and went sailing. He started out as an Oyster Pirate like Frank, then later switched sides and joined the Fish Patrol, protecting the waters off Benicia from the same oyster pirates. His book Tales of the Fish Patrol is a collection of short stories written in 1905 about this time in his life, spent in the waters off Benicia.
It was during his stay in Benicia 1892 - 1895 that he lived the experiences and inspirations for Tales of the Fish Patrol and John Barleycorn. A favorite hangout of London’s was “Jurgensen Old Corner Saloon” in The Lido building. Here he mastered the fine art of drinking, and drew from these experiences when writing John Barleycorn. The saloon, originally located at the very foot of First Street, slowly sunk into the marsh over the years, but was rescued by Yesterdaze Bookshop owner Pat Werblow in 2006 and driven up First Street by house mover Phil Joy. Pat rebuilt the ground floor exactly like it was in the early 1900s, and housed her bookstore there for several years. You can still see The Lido building, located at 501 First Street, which now houses the gift shop Angel Heart 4 You.
Some interesting facts about Jack London: At age 18 he went back to high school, and for a short time he went to UC Berkeley. He was an innovative author and was instrumental in creating the genre that came to be known as science fiction. He was also a prolific photographer, and in 1901 he ran for Mayor of Oakland on the Socialist Party ticket!