|Dr. Strentzel, at the pinnacle of his success as a fruit rancher, built a 10,000 square foot house south of Martinez on a knoll overlooking the bucolic Alhambra Valley in 1882.
Built in the Italianate style, the house had all the modern conveniences including gas lighting, coal burning fireplaces and flush toilets. The interiors were elegant yet comfortable with a parlor, library, conservatory, kitchen and dining room on the first floor and five bedrooms on the second. A phone was installed by 1885. The Strentzel home became a show place in the Valley.
Architects Wolf and Son of San Francisco and Sylvester and Langabee built the seventeen-roomed wood frame house. The house was surrounded by 800 acres of productive orchards and vineyards.
Muir married Louie in the Strentzel farmhouse. About the life changing event, he wrote, I ...now have a fixed camp where I can store burs and grass...
Muir and his wife continued to live in the Strentzel’s original home, nearly a mile south of the new Strentzel home. Dr. Strentzel died in October 1890. In ill health and not wishing to live alone, Mrs. Strentzel invited John and Louie to join her in the “big house.” Muir, his wife, and their two young daughters took up residence on the second floor.
Muir converted one of the bedrooms into a private retreat, a space called the Scribble Den. In this room Muir solidified his fame as a preservationist, founder of the Sierra Club, and friend to Yosemite and other national parks. Louie lived here until her death in 1905, and Muir until his death in 1914. By this time, Wanda and Helen had families of their own and sold what is now known as Muir House.
In 1964, Congress created John Muir National Historic Site, to preserve Muir House in perpetuity for the American people.