On the waterfront, at the south end of Broadway in Oakland on Webster Street, stands Jack London Square. At this location you will find a place named Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon. This National Literary Landmark opened its doors in 1883 and the original owner, Johnny Heinold named the place “J.M. Heinold’s Saloon”. This place was a saloon where men who worked on the waterfront could come and let off some steam back in the day.
However, during the 1920’s, the city of Alameda was a dry county and there was a ferry that ran between the city of Oakland and Alameda. The ferry conveniently stopped next to Heinold’s making it the last stop for commuters to enjoy a tasty libation before heading back to Alameda. As many servicemen left for service from the Port of Oakland it was coined as the first and last chance to have a drink. And with that, the name of the saloon changed to Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon.
The reason why this place is a National Literary Landmark is because the local author Jack London supposedly wrote portions of Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild at this watering hole. It was also said that Mr. Heinold funded Mr. London’s university education at the University of California. Thus the sign that illuminates from above the saloon- Jack London’s Rendezvous.
There is a sign before entering the saloon that reads “Watch Your Step”. There is a very good reason why you should heed this warning- the floors in this establishment are a tad bit tilted. They are tilted because of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and efforts to shore up the floor failed miserably.
When you enter this saloon, cell phone usage is frowned upon and there is no television to view sporting events. This establishment is a throwback to the way everyone should enjoy an adult beverage; no noise from the outside world; just companionship and drink - if only for a little while.
This slice of Americana is a throwback to when hard men and women made their way to the west to forge a new identity and to leave the past behind and in that process- having a drink sure came in handy. I hope you make your way to see this historical landmark for yourself. Yes it’s tiny; yes it’s no fizz; but it’s the place you want to see.