We spent a rainy March afternoon at Tao House and even under not exactly optimal conditions, the scenery was gorgeous. The place sits right in the middle of a well-heeled suburb but the land has been so well conserved that you feel as if you are a thousand miles from the nearest town while you are there. The tour includes about 20 minutes to wander the grounds, which we used to run back to the barn and visit O'Neill's beloved dog Blemie's grave and say hello to the cattle grazing on the hill; I just wish it had been a nicer day so that we could have walked down to the pond or strolled around the yard in front of the house, where the view is almost endless on clear days.
I am not a huge O'Neill fan and I was afraid I would feel lost on the tour, but the guide does an excellent job of explaining the circumstances that led O'Neill to Danville and the personal tragedies that he mined while writing his greatest plays in his study upstairs. I think the tour would be interesting to people with any level of interest in/knowledge of American literature or history. As a fan of historical houses, my only quibble is that the house has been left only partially furnished. The house's board apparently chose to concentrate on collecting furnishings belonging to O'Neill and spend very little on reproduction furniture, and since the O'Neills returned everything in the house to the store that furnished it when they vacated, there was almost nothing original left. Whiel the living room and O'Neill's study are faithfully represented, many rooms in the house are subsequently empty or virtually empty. I suspect that insuring the house against fire damage might be a problem if it were full of books and furniture (the property is only accessible via a narrow one-lane road, and visitors actually have to be driven up in a Park Service van) but still one wishes to get a more complete picture of what life at Tao House was like when the O'Neills lived there.
On the whole, this is a wonderful place to go if you are looking for a day trip while staying in San Francisco or Oakland. And it's FREE--I love the National Park Service! If we had more time that afternoon I would have gone for a drink at Elliott's in Danville, the old bar where O'Neill used to tip a glass from time to time--it looked really interesting.
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