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The House That Jack Built
"It should be thought of, that house, in relation to Jack, not a mansion, but a big cabin, a lofty lodge, a hospitable teepee, where he...could stretch and beam upon you and me and all the world that gathered by his log fires."
– Charmian Kittredge London
Jack and Charmian's dream home was planned even before their marriage. Actual work on it began April 1911. Albert Farr of San Francisco was the architect who transferred Jack's ideas into blueprints. For earthquake protection, the building was put on a huge floating slab large enough to support a forty-story building. Redwood trees, fully clothed in their own bark, deep chocolate-maroon volcanic rocks, blue slate, boulders and cement were chosen for primary building materials. The roof was of Spanish tile and came from the N. Clark and Sons Pottery, built on the old Davenport place in Alameda. Large redwood trees, with the bark still intact, formed the carriage entrance, the pergolas, and porches. The rafters were of rough-hewn, natural logs. Tree trunks in the gables and balconies were interlaced with fruit twigs for a beautiful effect.
Wolf House was not a castle in any sense of the term, though Jack and others referred to it as that. It was big, unpretentious, open, natural, and inviting, just like its builder. It was designed as a busy author's workshop, and as a home big enough for the many needs of the Londons, and for the entertainment of their friends.
Jack's workshop was to be 19 by 40 feet with a library of the same size directly under it on the second floor, connected by a spiral staircase. Here he would have room to work and house his huge library. At the time his books were stored inaccessibly in every building on the ranch. The work area was completely secluded from the rest of the house. High on the fourth floor and directly above Charmian's apartment Jack's sleeping quarters perched like an eagle's nest.
The 18 by 58 foot living room was two stories high with rough redwood balconies extending three-fourths of the way around. A huge stone fireplace and open ceiling rafters made a cozy nook of the huge room. One large alcove in the room was designed for Charmian's beautiful Steinway grand.
Wolf House had its own hot water, laundry, heating, electric lighting, vacuum and refrigerating plants, a milk room, storeroom, root cellar, and wine cellar.
Source: Kingman, Russ. A Pictorial Life of Jack London (Crown, 1979) (By permission)
An early rendering of Wolf House by San Francisco architect Albert Farr showing how it would look when finished. Wolf House consisted of four levels, with the upper two floors mostly for the use of Jack and Charmian, and the main floor and basement for the use of their many expected guests.
|Go view an even nicer Wolf House Sketch by William R. Johnston|
"I am ... only just now beginning my first feeble attempts at building a house for myself. That is to say, I am chopping down some redwood trees and leaving them in the woods to season against such a time, two or three years hence, when they will be used in building the house."
– Jack London Feb. 3, 1911
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