About the Whaley House & Grounds
Located at 2476 San Diego Avenue in historic Old Town San Diego, the Whaley House stands today as a classic example of mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival architecture. Formally dedicated as a historic house museum on May 25, 1960 and open to the public ever since, it is one of southern California's most popular visitor destinations. Over 100,000 people visit the Whaley House annually, with guests traveling from across the globe to experience this world-renowned museum. It is owned by the County of San Diego and since September of 2000 Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) has managed and operated the property. SOHO, a non-profit advocacy organization, has lead the community as a powerful catalyst for historic preservation by raising awareness and appreciation of our region's architectural and cultural heritage since 1969.
The building was started with the construction of a granary that later became the courtroom. The two-story house and store addition was designed by Thomas Whaley himself and constructed in 1857. It was the first two-story brick edifice in San Diego, and was built from bricks made in Thomas Whaley's own brickyard. Whaley boasted, "My new house, when completed, will be the handsomest, most comfortable and convenient place in town or within 150 miles of here."
The house is now in the process of a major restoration. Our interpretive period is from 1856 when construction began on the house to 1885 when Thomas Whaley moved his family to a new home in New Town, San Diego. Our primary focus is on 1868 to 1871, when the Whaley House was not only the Whaley family residence, but also San Diego's first commercial theater, the county courthouse, and the Whaley and Crosthwaite General Store, all of which have been restored to the museum.
The Whaley House Complex consists of:
- The Whaley House Museum, a not-to-be-missed experience that will be enjoyed by persons of all ages.
- The historic Verna House, which houses the Whaley House Museum Shop. This 1870s French Mansard was moved to its current location, next to the Whaley House, to save it from demolition in 1965. The Museum Shop features Whaley House souvenirs and t-shirts, an eclectic assortment of gifts and art that will appeal to everyone, and a large selection of books on San Diego History, architecture, art, and the paranormal.
- Two false front store buildings, of which there are only two others that still exist in the City of San Diego, that were moved from downtown San Diego to the Whaley House Complex in 1964 to save them from demolition. The two at the Whaley House Complex currently house the New Orleans Creole Café. The Café offers indoor and outdoor patio dining.
- Our replica nineteenth-century rustic gazebo seating area is the perfect place to relax after a hearty meal or a walk through Old Town State Park.
- The historic Derby-Pendleton House. This c. 1850 wood-frame and adobe structure is named for its two best-known residents, humorist George Horatio Derby (better known by his pennames "Squibob" and "John Phoenix") and San Diego County Clerk and Recorder George Allen Pendleton. The building was moved out of the path of Interstate 5 to its current location in 1962. Although it is not open to the public, it provides a classic backdrop to the Whaley House grounds. Read more about the Derby-Pendleton House from the July 2005 SOHO Reflections newsletter.
We need volunteers for the Whaley House Museum!