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A Saloon in Benicia

On the corner of 1st and West D in Benicia, California, stands two stories of an inviting structure built in the Queen Anne Victorian style. In its current incarnation, it is a spiritual gift and novelty shop offering scheduled events for psychic readings, workshops, and more.

This building has an intriguing history. Built in 1847, its original location was about a half mile east at the end of 1st Street on the waterfront of the Carquinez Straits. It housed a popular saloon named for its proprietor George Jurgensen—on the bottom floor. The upstairs is purported to have been for ladies who entertain.

The Old Corner Jurgensen Saloon, later known at the Lido, frequently hosted writer Jack London, who lived on his houseboat at the nearby pier. This was in the late 1890s, and London worked as an “oyster pirate” and later was on “fish patrol” looking for poachers. Most importantly he spent his free time in the saloon, where he was inspired to write John Barleycorn and Tales of the Fish Patrol. I would have loved to have witnessed him at his favorite table, nursing a shot of whiskey as he jotted notes.

As seen in the photos above, the Southern Pacific Railroad depot sat next door to the saloon, and the two buildings flooded when the tide came in. Built on mud flats, they were sinking. I spoke with Carol Mayor who owns Angel Heart 4 You and has always been intrigued by the history of the building. She shared a story that the bar had no stools because most of the men had just gotten off their horses and wanted to stand. You can see the hitching post on the right of the building. When the place flooded, the patrons were soaked to the knees. The poor horses. Around 1990, the decision was made to move the top floor of the structure. A new bottom floor in the exact same style was built and ready to receive the top floor. The original bottom was sunk too far in the mud to repair.

Evidently a few apparitions moved with the building. People have witnessed an older, grumpy man in or near the ornate gold elevator that was installed after the move. They call him George, as he fits the description of the original owner George Jurgensen. Also, a young boy has been seen. He is described as blond with a skull cap and suspenders holding up knickers. A young woman dressed in 1850s style has been seen peering out of an upstairs window. They remain welcome by the shopkeepers.

Before Connie Castro Jackson became too ill to go on adventures with me, she arranged with Carol Mayer for us to use the store after hours. We sat in the semi-dark, and Connie called in the spirits, of which two came through. One was a young woman. Connie wasn’t sure if her name was Nancy or Chancie. This woman explained she was part of white slavery and that this town, Benicia, was wide open. She looks out the windows, but the windows have changed. She escaped on a boat when she was in her late 20s, landed in San Francisco where she was murdered. Connie had the impression she might have been Chinese. Chancie mentioned the dirt roads, horses, and hearing a train come through every day.

The second spirit, was a young boy who sat in the back of the room. He told Connie he is five or six years old ,and said yes, he is a spirit. He said, “I smell. I have gas. I have problems with my stomach. No one could help me in my lifetime, as they didn’t know about cancer in my day. I sit and I wait. Sometimes I’m able to move things.” Connie asked if he wanted to be sent to the light and he said no, “This is my home.”

This was one of many unforgettable experiences I had with Connie. For more, check out the store's website Or, if you are in the area, stop in to browse and ask for Cut Open the Sky. They plan to carry it!

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