National Register of Historic Places in Contra Costa County

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National Register #71000137
Tao House
AKA Eugene O'Neill House
Address Restricted

Overlooking the San Ramon Valley and distant Mount Diablo, Tao House nestles on a small plateau high up the slopes of Las Trampas Ridge. A pair of stone pillars marks the entrance to the private drive which approaches the residence. This road was once guarded by electrically-operated gates that opened with the push of a button from the house.

Mrs. O'Neill designed the new home for her and her husband in conjunction with architect Frederick Confer, and described it as "a sort of pseudo-Chinese house expressing the O'Neills* concept of a serene Oriental existence.

During his peripatetic career, O'Neill inhabited a succession of houses. Tao House, however, has singular importance. Here the playwright, did his final and some of his best work; and the seven years passed in this place, constituted perhaps the longest period of relative happiness that O'Neill's stormy life knew. He and his wife, Carlotta Monterey O'Neill, chose the wooded mountainside near San Francisco for what they hoped would be "a final home and harbor," as O'Neill confided to a friend. The O'Neill's occupied their new residence in October 1937, and promptly named it Tao House - meaning roughly "the right way of life" of the Taoist faith.

At Tao House, O'Neill wrote The Iceman Cometh, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and completed several plays including A Touch of the Poet and More Stately Mansions - through which he hoped to portray the saga of an American family. Finally, O'Neill here wrote, the autobiographical masterpiece, Long Day's Journey Into Night - " a tale of old sorrow, written in tears and blood," and possibly his greatest work.

The hardships imposed by World War IT, and the playwright's growing need of medical attention, forced the O'Neills to give up Tao House late in 1943. Minor alterations were made both inside and out by the subsequent owners of Tao House, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Carlson, who expanded the acreage of the estate and turned it into a sheen ranch. These changes did not, however, affect the essential character or setting of Tao House.

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