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Playwright Eugene O'Neill's Danville home open for tours.

One of this country's most important dramatists, Eugene O'Neill lived a troubled, ramshackle existence most of his life. Son of an actor and drug-addict mother, he spent his early years in a succession of hotels and temporary lodgings.

In 1937, the year after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he built Tao House in Danville, in the foothills east of Oakland. Calling it his "final harbor," he lived here longer than anywhere else. (O'neill died in Boston in 1953.)

Now Tao House is open for guided tours as a national historic site. You can walk through the house that O'Neill and his wife Carlotta designed to suit his working habits and eccentricities (extensive shelving was needed for his 8,000 books and 300 pairs of shoes, for example).

While the Mission Revival-style house has no furniture, the National Park rangers serving as guides paint a vivid pciture as you explore the long L-shaped building. One room has a display of photographs and memorabilia. Outside, there's a 1910 barn, small orchard, du ck pond, and chicken coop (O'Neill sat nearby and spent hours observing his chickens).

That it was a creative haven is clear: he completed five plays here, including three of his greatest works: The Iceman Cometh, Moon for the Misbegotten, and Long Day's Journey into Night.

You can join one of two daily van tours (limit 14 people) given at 11:30 and 1:30; cost is $4.50, or $3.75 seniors, $3.25 children under 12. Tours last about 2 hours. For directions and required reservations, call Tours Are Us at (415) 674-0474.
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Title Annotation:California
Date:May 1, 1985
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