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Strangest Little Bar 

Heinold's First and Last Chance

Heinold's First and Last Chance was originally built in 1880 from the belly of a whaling ship. After several years as a bunkhouse for local oyster fishermen, the tiny one-story building was bought and renovated by former deckhand John Heinold. The current bar looks much the way it did at the turn of the previous century. The saloon's wood floor tilts downward from the front and back walls at a 30-degree angle, while the bar itself slants enough that you're not sure if you should leave your drink unattended. Like many idiosyncrasies of the Bay Area, Heinold's slippery slope is the fault of the 1906 earthquake, which damaged the pilings beneath the saloon. (You can tell what time the quake hit by the stopped clock on the wall.) But the odd, cramped confines -- which are still lit by the original gaslights, the last commercial spot in California to have them -- haven't stopped famous people from hunkering down at the bar over the years. Heinold actually lent Jack London the tuition for his one year of college, and London spent much of his time studying and drinking at the saloon. President Taft once visited, as did Robert Louis Stevenson, Erskine Caldwell, and Ambrose Bierce. Though the Heinold family finally gave up ownership in 1984, present owner Carol Brookman has kept the bar as quaint and cozy as it was a hundred years ago, right down to the oft-heard greeting of, "Yes, this is the First and Last Chance. Come in! Watch it! Step down, please."


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