Birds gotta fly.
Fish gotta swim.
People gotta live places and do stuff, ya know?
This past weekend I visited one of the few historical homes in California. I mean, let me qualify that statement. There are a few historical homes/places to visit here in Cali. But compare the density/number of historical sites we’ve got to say, England and California is practically nonexistent. Let’s face it. The US is a baby nation. So our history is in it’s infancy as well.
But. We do have a few gems. Like John Muir’s house.
He was a naturalist. A Scottish-born American Naturalist.
This guy is rather fascinating, actually. He emigrated to the states when he was Eleven. He went to the University of Wisconsin, where he took his first botany lesson. He went to Canada with his brother to avoid the draft, working in a Saw Mill to earn money. After moving back to the US, Indianapolis to be exact, he was struck in the eye with a tool he was using while working in a mill and confined to a dark room for six weeks to heal. He regained his sight and determined to live out his dream of studying plants.
At the age of 29 he walked from Indiana to Florida, at least 1,000 miles. His route was not pre-planned, his only goal was to go by the “wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find.”
In Florida he booked passage on a ship to South America, but after contracting Malaria he sailed instead to NYC and from NYC to California, where he immediately set out for Yosemite.
Muir became one of Yosemite’s most avid and outspoken protectors. He wrote “No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite… The grandest of all special temples of Nature.”
He lived in Yosemite for three years, mostly jobless, broke and with no prospects.
You might call him the original “hippie”
He wrote several books on nature. He co-founded the Sierra club.
At the age of forty he met and married his wife, Luisa Strentzel, whose family owned a 2600 fruit orchard in Martinez, California. They had two daughters and lived first in the “old adobe” – a piece of native Californian history that had been refaced with a quasi-victorian facade. After Luisa’s parent’s died they passed the big house on the estate to she and John.
The house is a large, wonderful artifact with lots of windows, light and life. It’s lands, though nowhere near the original 2600 acres are still substantial (by today’s standards), standing around 9 acres. The property contains the original two houses, small fruit orchards, carriage house and a windmill today and can be toured for $3. So head on down to Martinez and visit a piece of California’s heritage.