A Playwright’s Garden

By Pam Patterson

Published on December 8, 2016

Tao House was built to be Eugene and Carlotta’s Eden. “We have a beautiful site in the hills of the San Ramon Valley with one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen,” wrote O’Neill in 1937. Having lived a vagabond lifestyle in hotels and rented houses around the world, O’Neill and his wife hoped never to leave the peace and privacy of their new home in the green hills above Danville. “This is the final home and harbor for me. I love California.” O’Neill wrote to a friend.

This year, in honor of the National Park Service’s Centennial, the California Garden and Landscape History Society produced a special issue of their publication, Eden, to highlight historic garden sites in the National Parks. The Eugene O’Neill National Historic site, its courtyard, surrounding gardens, orchards and landscape were featured as Eden’s cover story, “A Playwrights Garden.” Written by the National Park’s own horticulturist and arborist, Keith Park, and Paul Scolari, Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources, the article reveals the fascinating history of the evolution and restoration of the landscape, gardens and architecture of Tao House from 1937 to 2016.

Bought with funds from his recent Nobel Prize, and named for the O’Neill’s fondness for Eastern Philosophy and the principles of feng shui, Tao House was home to Eugene and Carlotta for seven years, the longest they had ever lived in one place. The house remains a poignant reminder of their lives in the solitude of the Las Trampas hills. O’Neill was able to write his final and most memorable plays there—The Iceman Cometh, Moon for the Misbegotten, and Long Days Journey into Night, before failing health and the isolation of the place drove them to sell the property and move east. Their beloved Dalmatian, Blemie, is buried in the pasture behind the old barn. To read the full Eden story, go here. To arrange a visit to Tao House, go here.