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Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon 2018
Jack London Square - Oakland, California

Photograph by Elena Erickson

Biographical info on the 'Last Chance Saloon' is below image

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Heinold's First and Last Chance is a waterfront saloon opened by John 'Johnny' Heinold in 1883 on Jack London Square in Oakland, California. The name refers to the time in which for many sailors, the pub was the first and last chance to drink alcohol heavily before or after along voyage.

Heinold's is also known as 'Jack London's Rendezvous,' as it was the inspiration for scenes from the Oakland writer's novels 'Call of the Wild' and 'The Sea Wolf.'

The pub in its original form was a preserved building from 1880, built from the remnants of an old whaling ship at the foot of Webster Street in Oakland, where it remains today. It was originally designed as sleeping quarters for the workers of the nearby oyster beds, and was used in thios purpose for three years. In 1883 it was purchased by German-born Philadelphian Johnny Heinold for 100 dollars and with the help of a ship carpenter, converted into a pub which he named J.M. Heinold's Saloon.

The pub's central location near the ferry between Oakland and Alameda made it a popular first or last destination to drink alcohol, as its consumption and sale were illegal in Alameda. The popular nickname 'First and Last' stuck, and the pub's name was eventually officially renamed to 'Heinold's First and Last Chance.'

Jack London's Rendezvous

Oakland author Jack London, after spending some time out at sea and traveling throughout the states and Canada, returned to his hometown to complete his high school education. As a schoolboy, London would study at the bar's tables that remain today. At 17, he confessed to Johnny Heinold during his stay at the pub that he was planning to attend University and pursue a career in writing. Heinold lent London the money needed for tuition, and he enrolled at the nearby University of California, Berkeley. Heinold's pub introduced London to the sailors and adventurers that would influence his writing.

Many of London's evenings were spent at Heinold's pub, gathering ideas for his later works. In his autobiographical novel, John Barleycorn, London mentioned the pub's likeness seventeen times. The pub was the place where London met Alexander McLean, a captain known for his cruelty at sea, whom the protagonist in London's novel The Sea-Wolf, Wolf Larsen, is based.

Jack London's Rendezvous became the bar's nickname in more recent years because of its influence on the author. A sign was added to the original roof with the title.

Heinold's today

John Heinold ran the bar until 1939 when his son, George, took over. George ran the bar until 1969 and then his wife, Margaret, stepped in to run the establishment, continuing the tradition until 1984 when Carol Brookman became the proprietor.

Heinold's is the last commercial establishment in California with its original gas lighting. The tables, which reportedly came from a whaling ship, and other furnishings date back to the days when Johnny Heinold ran the pub. The walls and ceilings are covered with business cards, hats of past patrons and money, often signed by sailors about to deploy so they would have money for a drink waiting for them upon their return.

The bar still holds the original potbellied stove used to warm the room, their only source of heat since 1889. Bob Fitzsimmon's and Jim Jeffries' boxing gloves, John Heinold's hat remain where they were hung; and the original bar glassware, and mahogany bar are still in use today.

One of the most notable characteristics of the pub is the very slanted floor. The uneven ground formed in 1906 when a portion of the piles the pub is built on in swampy ground sank. In the corner of Heinold's is a clock that has been stopped since the moment of floor's collapse at 5:18.

Some say Heinold's First and Last Chance is haunted. Brookman, the current owner and other saloon employees have reported hearing footsteps and finding doors left open. On January 12, 1998 the Friends of Libraries U.S.A. added Heinold's to the Literary Landmarks Register. Outside they placed a plaque that reads:

Literary Landmarks Register designates Heinold's First and Last Chance as a National Literary Landmark. Befriended by Johnny Heinold at this original site, Jack London met many seafaring and waterfront characters which he later immortalized in his adventure novels. Heinold's is referred to several times in his book John Barleycorn. On September 1, 2000, the United States Federal Government listed Heinold's First and Last Chanceon the National Register of Historic Places.

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