Visit Tao House | May 16, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - May 16, 2008

Visit Tao House

One of this area's unique treasures is Tao House, the home built by Eugene O'Neill and his wife Carlotta in the western hills of Danville. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright lived here from 1937-44 and produced some of his best work, thanks to the solitude of the location and his wife Carlotta who vigilantly guarded his privacy.

Tao House is a National Historic Site run by the Park Service, which conducts informative tours free of charge year-round. The Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, runs other wonderful programs at the estate, including plays in the Old Barn theater, and Student Days and Artist Days to let creative people onsite to work to encourage the muse. Next month Tao House will be among local venues for the annual O'Neill conference, which draws enthusiasts from around the world.

With all the attention focused on Tao House, it is surprising how many local residents have never visited the site. True, one must make reservations in advance and be shuttled up the hills by the Park Service, but that feature enhances the experience by allowing visitors to enjoy the ride rather than navigating the roads themselves. Another way to see the estate is to attend one of the plays hosted by the foundation. This month shuttles will begin leaving from the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, which opens its O'Neill exhibit tomorrow, so a Eugene O'Neill Day can begin there.

Tao House reflects O'Neill's interest in Eastern thought and Carlotta's passion for Oriental art and décor; it also affords sweeping views of the Valley and Mount Diablo. The tours, which begin at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, are led by park rangers who share their considerable knowledge about the playwright and the house and conclude with time to explore the grounds. Even those uninterested in literature or home tours would enjoy a jaunt up the mountain to this treasure of the San Ramon Valley. Call 838-0249 for reservations.