Whaley House Museum

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2476 San Diego Ave., San Diego, CA 92110
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Open:
10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. (Monday - Tuesday)
Wednesday Closed
10 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. (Thursday - Saturday)
10 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. (Sunday)
Whether you have an avid interest in history, or you’re looking to spot some ghosts, the renowned Whaley House Museum is sure to entertain and educate.
Whaley House Museum
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Explore the World-Renowned Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Museum is located in the neighborhood of Old Town San Diego, California. It is a historic house museum constructed in the style of Greek Revival architecture from the mid-nineteenth century. The museum has been in operation for over 60 years, and it typically sees over 100,000 guests each year from all around the world.

The Whaley House primarily focuses on providing residents with an interesting look into what it was like to live in the mid- to late-1800s in San Diego. The museum is also well known for its haunted nature, inviting visitors to take a ghost tour and see these specters for themselves.

The long history of the Whaley House begins all the way back in 1857, when it was constructed according to blueprints designed by the house’s founder Thomas Whaley himself. At the time, it was the first and only two-story brick building, and it was constructed with bricks from Whaley’s own brickyard.

Supposedly, Whaley purchased the property upon which he built his house for only $1; at the time, he had no idea just how important this purchase would be to preserving the history of early San Diego.

The building was initially used as a granary as well as a residence for the Whaley family. Later on, it was used to serve a number of different purposes, most notably as a courthouse.

The Whaley House didn’t become a museum until May 25, 1960. Since then, the house has been owned by the County of San Diego. In September of 2000, the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) took over management, operation, and caretaking for the property in conjunction with San Diego County.

The Whaley House Museum recently began a renovation and restoration process that includes fixing issues with mildew, moisture, and leaks that have arisen due to the age of the house. They have also used the renovation as an opportunity for historic preservation of the interiors of the study, parlor, and downstairs hallway. This is intended to make them more accurate to their period look.

Renovators followed the guidance of an original, hand-drawn sketch by Thomas Whaley in 1868 to alter the house so it more closely represents what it would have looked like after construction.

The Whaley House Museum is one of the many attractions included in the Go San Diego Pass. This pass is a great way to save money on your trip to San Diego. If you purchase the pass before with our website, you can get an additional discount on the Go San Diego Card.

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What You’ll See During Your Trip

The Whaley House Museum is known for both its connections to history and rumors of ghosts being spotted in the house and around the grounds. Visitors interested in either aspect of the house will find a lot to enjoy during their trip.

The historic part of the attraction is centered around the Whaley family as well as the history of the house itself. Entering the house will take you back to the mid-1800s, shortly after the house’s construction, and the following years when the house underwent many changes.

Local Tips
Did you Know
The Whaley House has been featured in many historical documentaries as well as a wide variety of paranormal and sci-fi shows, including Syfy Channel's Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files & Travel Channel's America's Most Haunted.

The museum includes restored rooms that represent how the house would have looked from 1868, shortly after the Whaley family moved to New Town and constructed the house, to about 1871. During this time period, the Whaley house served as a county courthouse, a town theater, and the Whaley and Crosthwaite General Store.

As you walk through the house, you’ll see how each room represents a part of the house’s history, and the history of New Town itself.

After-dark visits to the house are more focused on the ghost side of the attraction. As one of the few parts of early San Diego history still standing in the modern day, the Whaley House has collected its fair share of ghosts. Nighttime tours include an explanation of the folklore of the house and an opportunity to spot some spirits who may still linger within the house’s walls.

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How much can you save by using the Go Pass?

The Go San Diego Pass is the perfect way to explore more attractions and activities that the area has to offer, all while being cost-efficient.

With the Go San Diego Pass, you can save up to 55% off admission fees at some of the area’s most popular attractions.

Attractions at the Whaley House Museum

The Whaley House Museum offers tours dedicated to either explaining the history of the house and the Whaley family, or uncovering some of its mysterious folklore. When you’re planning your visit to the Whaley House Museum, don’t forget to make time for these exciting attractions!

Daytime Tours

As a building that has withstood the test of time, the Whaley House has a lot of history to it. The Daytime tours go into detail about the house’s history, its previous uses, and the restoration and community outreach efforts that are still going on today to preserve one of San Diego’s oldest buildings.

Tours are self-guided, but docents are available to answer any questions you may have and expand upon the information available in the museum. As you walk through the house, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for what it was like to live in San Diego in the 19th century, all by exploring a genuine part of that history.

The rooms of the Whaley House Museum are themed to represent the different uses of the house. Since it has been in use for over a century, the house’s history is as full of variety as it is engaging.

Many of the displays in the museum cover the house’s original use as a newly-constructed home for the Whaley family. These exhibits focus on what life was like in New Town right after its founding and the unique lives of Thomas Whaley, his wife Anna, and their children Violet and Little Tommy Whaley.

In 1868, a major earthquake sent the Whaley family out of the house for their safety. When they returned, Thomas Whaley and his business partner Crosthwaite established a general store, where they offered easily accessible goods to the rest of the town. This helped them financially recover from the hardship of the earthquake and the damage it did to the house.

Another interesting use of the Whaley house throughout the years was as a theater. The building actually served as San Diego’s first ever commercial theater, where residents of the town could come and watch performances as early as 1868, soon after the establishment of the general store. The theater space was rented from Thomas Whaley by Thomas Tanner, who was the founding member of The Tanner Troupe that performed in the house.

The museum also includes information from when the building was a courthouse, from 1869 to 1871. During this time, it had the distinction of being San Diego’s second county courthouse. The Whaley House still contains some of the court documents from cases that were prosecuted at the building.

Nighttime Tours

During haunting hours, the Whaley House Museum offers tours that focus on the scarier, more supernatural elements of the house. These nighttime tours combine history and horror for an entertaining and sometimes startling look at the house’s resident spirits, helping the building earn its reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America.

Evening and nighttime ghost tours at the Whaley House Museum bring visitors on a guided tour through the different rooms of the museum. Your guide will explain the legends and superstitions that surround the house and its previous descendants, as well as the folklore about previous ghost sightings in the house. On your tour, you’ll learn about the different ghosts known to haunt the Whaley House walls and what keeps them around.

After-dark tours begin with an overview of the house, its previous uses, and its connection to history. From there, your tour guide will introduce you to the Whaley family and the legends surrounding them. As you take the tour, keep an eye out for strange sights, and listen for the sound of distant heavy footsteps.

First, you’ll hear about the founder of the house, Thomas Whaley, and his wife Anna Whaley. These two continue to watch over the house long after their death, often being spotted roaming the halls and out on the grounds. You’ll also learn about Violet Whaley, whose sad death keeps her tethered to the house, and Tommie Whaley, whose cries can supposedly still be heard at night, over 150 years later.

You’ll also learn about the outlaw ‘Yankee’ Jim Robinson, who was hanged for his notorious deeds on the land the Whaley House stands on. Rumors suggest that he is still unable to find rest and continues to haunt the house to this day.

Each of the shocking and fantastical stories of ghost encounters provided by your tour guide will immerse you in the Whaley House folklore. Who knows? You may even spot a ghost yourself!

Annual Halloween Events

While after-dark ghost tours are available year-round, the museum shows off its haunted heritage in full swing during the month of October. These ghost-centric Halloween events at the Whaley House Museum are sure to delight anyone interested in the supernatural.

During October, the museum holds special extended hours and offers additional ghost tours. These tours go into detail about the ghosts spotted in the house and their reasons for remaining in the realm of the living. Other Halloween-themed events are run each year, so check the official website to see what the Whaley House has in store to make the holiday extra spooky.

Children’s Programs

The Whaley House Museum offers a youth docent program, where kids ages 12-17 can get involved with the museum and learn more about its history. In the program, children are trained to know everything there is to know about the museum. They will learn how to give tours, answer visitor questions, and practice their customer service skills.

The youth docent program teaches kids valuable and marketable skills they can put into practice in future jobs, as well as giving them an insider look into what it’s like to work at the museum.

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What You Should Know Before Your Visit

To make your visit as fun and stress-free as it can be, check out these helpful tips.

Length of Your Visit

Self-guided tours through the Whaley House during the daytime generally take about 30 minutes. Night tours typically last between 30 minutes and an hour.

Parking

There are free lots for all-day parking available nearby on Harney Street and Twiggs Street. There are also a handful of two hour unmetered parking spots on the roads of historic Old Town near the museum.

Gift Shop

The SOHO Museum Shop is located right next door to the museum. Here, you can purchase souvenirs to commemorate your trip, including Whaley House-themed merchandise and items related to the house’s reputation for paranormal activity.

Accessibility

Only the ground floor of the Whaley House is accessible by wheelchair. However, the grounds around the house and the gift shop are also wheelchair accessible.

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