John Muir National Historic Site

The John Muir House was constructed by Dr. John Strentzel, the father-in – law of John Muir, in 1882. When Dr. Strentzel died in 1890, Mrs. Strentzel begged the Muirs to move with her into the “great home.” For the last 24 years of his life, this was going to be John Muir’s den.

The “big house” is a late Victorian era (Italianate style) wood frame mansion of 17 rooms constructed on a knoll with a commanding view of the Alhambra Valley. It is a two-story building with a full basement and attic, a roof top cupola, 12-foot high ceilings in the rooms, and floor space of over 10,000 square feet. The house was designed by San Francisco architects Wolfe and Son and constructed by the Sylvester and Langabee contractors of the same area.

The first floor includes an entrance hall, a formal parlor, a library with a partially enclosed porch, a family parlor, a dining room with an enclosed wardrobe, and a kitchen. Originally, two water closets existed, one of which was demolished in 1906 by John Muir.

The building and furnishing of the house cost over $20,000, and included such conveniences as indoor plumbing and gas lighting. As early as 1885, there was a telephone in the building. Just prior to his death in 1914, John Muir had an electrical system installed.

Rainwater collected from the roof, or pumped from one of the three wells located near the building, and stored in redwood tanks in the attic supplied water for the indoor plumbing. Any overflow went under the kitchen floor to a large brick cistern. John Muir added a three-story extension to the back of the house sometime after 1890, supporting a massive steel water tank in the attic.

Seven Italian marble fireplaces were originally imported, of which only three remain. Two more have been made into bricks, and two have been cut. A large mission style that Muir had designed after the original fireplace was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake is the family parlor fireplace. During the house repairs, Muir also opened the two first floor parlors with wide archways and a smaller one in the dining room.

Since Muir ‘s period, the house has remained largely structurally unaltered. Since the house was declared a National Historic Site in 1964, the National Park Service has been engaged in a continuous renovation program on the house and surrounding grounds. Whenever possible, period furniture and artifacts were used, with replica walls and floor coverings and paintings to represent the historical period.

Image courtesy of Jeffreymendel Jeffrey Nash – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

After visiting the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California, make sure to stop by these other gems:

  • Rankin Aquatic Center
  • The Cobra Experience – Museum & Event Space
  • Mt Wanda
  • Hidden Lakes Park
  • Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline
  • Radke Martinez Regional Shoreline Park
  • Barrel Aged Cocktail Bar at Barrelista
  • Roxx On Main
  • Five Suns Brewing

All of these secret spots are located just a short distance from our location in downtown Walnut Creek, Spaulding Concrete at 1461 Locust Street!