The bar spent its first years as a bunk house for oyster harvesters in the area. In 1883 it became a saloon. The saloon is built from the wood of an old whaling ship.
Heinold’s was a home away from home for Jack London as a poverty-stricken youth. The owner, Johnny Heinold, let the young London sell newspapers on a stool and hang around the bar. At the age of seventeen, London confided in Heinold his desire to attend the University of California and become a writer. Heinold lent London the money to attend, and although London only stayed at the University for a year, he still became one of the most prolific and highest selling authors of the time. John Heinold is mentioned numerous times in Jack London’s novels John Barleycorn and The Tales of the Fish Patrol. London got his thirst for adventure and inspiration for many of his novels from listening to the stories of shipmates in the saloon.
London wrote fifty-three books in seventeen years and outsold Mark Twain at the time. He died of kidney failure at the age of 40.
Heinold’s has a new owner and is still open for business in Oakland, California.