500 acres of rolling hills covered in oak trees and native brush are punctuated with small hand built monuments of concrete and rubble stones, including a pyramid with a sweeping view of Oakland, and a small platform the property’s one time owner intended to be his own funeral pyre.
These follies were created by the eclectic poet Joaquin Miller. Born Cincinnatus Heine Miller in Indiana in 1837, Miller reinvented himself in California.
He was, at various times in his life, an explorer and a miner, a writer and a Pony Express rider, a horse thief and absentee father, a lawyer and a judge. But he is best remembered as a poet, styled the “Poet of the Sierras”. He dressed the part of the western ruffian, and travelled and spoke in England as a sort of a walking California oddity.
In 1886 he moved onto the property now known as Joaquin Miller Park, built a home and began constructing weird little monuments on his land. He died in 1913, and despite his final wishes, he was not cremated on his home-made pyre, surrounded by trees at the top of the property, but members of the local Bohemian Club later took his conventionally-creemated ashes back to the pyre, where they were scattered.
At the base of the property is Miller’s modest Victorian style home, known at “The Hights” in his day, now a National Historic Landmark. His papers are now collected at the Bancroft library in Berkeley, and visitors to the park can still find his follies, towers and pyramids hidden in the tress.