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Foundation History

The first phase of the Foundation’s activities focused on securing funds to purchase the house. Through several fundraising efforts (primarily benefit performances of Eugene O’Neill’s play Hughie by the late Jason Robards Jr. and Jack Dodson) the Foundation made a down payment, secured title and gained access to the house. Approximately $70,000 was raised through performances of Hughie and a production at Tao House of A Moon for the Misbegotten by Hanover College and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Through the efforts of Senator Alan Cranston and Congressman George Miller, the National Park Service and Congress accepted the House as a donation but had no current funds at that time for acquisition.  With the help of Assemblyman Daniel Boatwright and State Senator John Nejedly, the State of California appropriated the needed funds from the Collier Park Preservation Fund to purchase the house.

On October 19, 1976, President Gerald Ford signed SB 2398, calling for the establishment of the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site into law. Tao House officially became the property of the federal government on June 12, 1980.

The enabling legislation stipulated that the National Park Service is responsible for operation, maintenance and public programs. The Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House is responsible for artistic and educational programs. The National Park Service’s General Management Plan, signed into the Federal Register in 1991 describes the plans for the site: small scale theatrical performances, an artist in residence program, full public access, seminars and interpretive tours. Through the efforts of the Foundation, Tao House became a National Historic Site. The National Park Service has shown tremendous commitment to the project and has restored the house to its original design.

Chronology of The Eugene O’Neill Foundation

  • 1937 – Eugene O’Neill and wife Carlotta move into Tao House.
  • 1944 – Tao House is sold to the Carlson family.
  • 1965 – Attempted sale of Tao House and the expanded area around it known as Corduroy Hills Ranch is prevented and the property remains in litigation, reverting to original owner.
  • 1968 – The Eugene O’Neill National Monument Association formed by Thalia Brewer, Darlene Blair and Los Sizoo.
  • 1968-1970 – Several efforts by Rep. Jerome Waldie (Dem, Ca.) and Senator Alan Cranston (Dem, Ca) in the 90th Congress calling for the establishment of the Eugene O’Neill National Monument. Not passed.
  • 1970 – California Historical Landmarks Commission recommends nomination of Tao House to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1971 – Tao House placed on the list of U.S. National Historic Landmarks.
  • 1974 – East Bay Regional Park District purchases 1018 acres of Corduroy Hills Ranch with an 18-month purchase option on a 14-acre parcel including Tao House to give more time to preservation efforts.
  • 1974 – The Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House, is organized and incorporated as a non-profit organization to raise the funds for the Tao House purchase.
  • 1975 – Rep. George Miller (Dem, Ca) and Senator Canston introduce legislation in the 94th Congress calling for the establishment of the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site.
  • 1975 – Jason Robards & Jack Dodson star in O’Neill’s Hughie at UC Berkeley to benefit efforts to preserve Tao House.
  • 1976 – The Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House, takes title to Tao House, subject to a deed of trust due in January 1978. Cranston’s bill passes the U.S. Senate. State Assemblyman Daniel Boatwright introduces urgency legislation providing for the purchase of Tao House with Collier Park Preservation Funds by the State of California. It is signed into law.
  • 1976 -Public Law 94-539 (Miller, Ca.) passes the House of Representatives. President Gerald Ford signs SB2398 establishing the Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site.
  • 1977 – Public hearings directed by the National Park Service for purpose of creating a General Management Plan for Tao House are held. Moon for the Misbegotten performed outside the old barn.
  • 1978 – Eugene O’Neill Foundation board of directors approves Interim Agreement with National Park Service pending resolution of access.
  • 1979 – Contra Costa County zoning administrator holds public hearing concerning access roads to Tao House.
  • 1980 – The National Park Service signs an Interim Agreement which stipulates that the NPS is responsible for building and grounds operation, maintenance, restoration and public interpretive programming, while the Eugene O’Neill Foundation is responsible for artistic programming.
  • 1980 – AB1953 (Boatwright) is signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. The bill transferred ownership of Tao House from the State of California to the federal government. The NPS decision of access road is again postponed. Mediation is undertaken.
  • 1982 – Work begins on restoration of Eugene O’Neill’s study, dressing room and bedroom. Funds are raised by the Foundation, with work implemented by the NPS. Further discussion of the General Plan. The council members of the newly formed Town of Danville appoint eleven-member advisory committee to study proposed access routes and make recommendation. Engineering studies by the NPS are complete.
  • 1983 – With funding from the San Francisco Foundation, the Eugene O’Neill Foundation board of directors hires a planning consultant to assist with creating a five-year plan. The board approves the hiring of a part-time executive director.
  • 1984 – The NPS announces an agreement reached with residents allowing limited daily public access to Tao House. This is an interim agreement pending resolution of final access road.
    1985 – Tao House opens to the public, with a celebration; Helen Hayes is guest of honor.
  • 1989 – First Tao House Award presented to Jason Robards.
  • 1991 – Student Days at Tao House is established.
  • 1996 – Playwrights’ Theatre program established initiated by Prof. Travis Bogard to enable staged reading of O’Neill’s early plays, and the works of playwrights O’Neill influenced.
  • 1998 – Foundation Library renamed “Travis Bogard Reading Room.”
  • 1999 – First Annual Eugene O’Neill Festival held in Danville.
  • 2002 – Major structural and seismic retrofitting of Tao House by NPS.
  • 2005 – Dedication of the O’Neill Commemorative in Danville’s Front Street Park, designed by artist Michael Manwaring.
  • 2008 – O’Neill Studio Retreat initiated for emerging high school writers.
  • 2009 – Long term Master Facility Plan developed by Mark Cavagnero Associates.
  • 2014 – Eugene O’Neill Foundation, Tao House celebrates its 40th Anniversary; Travis Bogard Artist in Residence program is initiated.
  • 2016 – The National Park and Eugene O’Neill Foundation celebrate Twin Centennials, commemorating the 100th anniversary of both the Park Service’s founding and the first production of an O’Neill play, Bound East for Cardiff, produced by the Provincetown Players in 1916.