“A "wanton despoiling of so much beauty"”
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. It took more than two years to build Wolf House. By August 1913, London had spent approximately $80,000 (pre World War I dollars), today equal to over $1.8 million. At the height of construction, some 30 workers were employed on the house. Just days before Jack and Charmian were ready to move into their new home, a fire of unknown origin gutted the house, leaving only the rock walls and chimneys. "Why don't you cry, or get excited, or something, you two?" asked a neighbor. "You don't seem to realize what's happened to you!" "What's the use?" Jack repeated his thought. "It won't rebuild the house. ... Though it can be rebuilt!" he swore cheerfully, purpose in his eye. Yes, Jack laughed and bouyed up the spirits of the Ranch while his dream castle ascended in lurid smoke that hot August night. But when at four in the dawn, the tension relaxed, and uppermost in his mind loomed the wicked, cruel, senseless destruction of the only home he had ever made for himself, he lay in my pitying arms and shook like a child. After a few moments he stilled, and said: "It isn't the money loss ... though that is grave enough just at this time. The main hurt comes from the wanton despoiling of so much beauty."
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Jack London's Wolf House
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