Heinholds Bar
heinholds first and last chance saloon

Heinhold's First and Last Chance Bar in Oakland: Jack London's Rendezvous

Oakland--Heinhold's First and Last Chance Bar at the foot of Webster Street at Oakland's Jack London Square operates as a one-room bar today, as it has for over a century since it first opened. Built in 1880 from the remains of an old whaling ship, it was first used as a bunkhouse for the men working the oyster beds off the east shore of the San Francisco Bay.

Today, this humble place sits on the paved walkway along the Oakland waterfront. Easy to overlook, it could easily be a remnant of another time and guests might miss it completely if they didn't know it continues to serve drinks to customers as it has for well over 100 years.

When you enter the bar, you have to step down. The floor slopes prominently from the entryway to the other end of the room, due to years of settling. Inside is a small bar, a couple wooden tables and chairs, and a little bathroom.  Secret: Beware should you choose to use the watering closet. The bartender has a microphone and can surprise you with broadcasts into the tiny room. It's really funny! The walls are plastered with memorabilia of the prominent guests who have visited.

In 1883 Johnny Heinhold bought the old building for $100 and cleared out the bunkbeds. He called his new establishment the First and Last Chance Saloon. Heinhold operated the little shack as a bar for 50 years. Salty dogs and serious writers were attracted to the little wooden house to soak up the character and charm of the place, along with the kinship of the Heinhold, himself.

Jack London frequented the saloon and wrote this:

     Dear Johnny,

     I am glad you like the stuff the Saturday Evening Post is publishing. Farther along in it I say all kinds of things about you. One thing you will especially remember, how you loaned me money when I started to high school and the University. I bring all that into the story.

     Say, when are you going to take a run up to see us on the ranch? I shall always look for your coming and shall be disappointed if you do not come.

                                                 Sincerely yours,

                                                 Jack London

Robert Louis Stevenson was another customer who felt right at home at this welcoming saloon. Joaquin Miller and Rex Beach were also authors who came for a drink and some kinship.

Johnny Heinhold passed away in 1933, after surviving the Prohibition and seeing the return of legal alcoholic beverage. He kept the place open during the Prohibition, serving sasparilla and snacks.


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