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Whaley House Complex Restoration Nearly Complete
By Dean Glass

The ongoing master restoration plan for the Whaley House Complex in Old Town has reached a crescendo. Exterior wood trim on the brick Whaley House has been scraped, patched and painted, and new, period-correct shutters have been installed, making the Whaley House look as beautiful as it did when it was first constructed in 1857.

The County of San Diego, which owns the property, funded and managed the exterior work on the house and the two historic buildings that make up the Creole Cafe. The entire property also received upgrades to its electrical system.

SOHO is responsible for the maintenance and restoration of the Whaley House Museum's interior, and much has been accomplished there, too. Faux graining to imitate oak has been applied to all of the woodwork in the Whaley & Crosthwaite General Store so it matches that of other downstairs rooms. The finish was skillfully completed by artist and faux finisher Mary Jones, who has done work for other museums and historic sites, including the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Restaurant in Old Town. Missing hardware and other details have also been replaced. Much of the work was done when the museum was open, which gave our visitors the opportunity to get a close look at how this painstaking work is carried out.

Upcoming interior restoration projects for the Whaley House include repairing and refinishing the faux bois and ashlar block marbling in the entry hall, and restoring the downstairs guest chamber with paint, faux graining, and carpet in period patterns. The staircase carpet runner will be replaced, and what is now being used as a closet between the general store and the dining room, is set to be returned to its original use as a pantry.

Behind the house, the popular New Orleans Creole Cafe will soon be reopening. Its two c. 1869 false front buildings have been beautifully restored. Their shiny, new coats of paint are in period-appropriate colors: Rookwood Red, Roycroft Bottle Green, and Dark Hunter Green.

Originally constructed in downtown San Diego, the wood-frame buildings were moved onto the Whaley House grounds in 1964 as a temporary measure to save them from demolition. Until this restoration project, the 147-year-old structures have never had a proper foundation. (Several historic artifacts were recovered while digging the new foundation, among them a 19th-century glass ink well and the lower portion of a set of dentures dating to the early 20th century.) Now, they are also ADA-compliant, with a new ramp and bathroom, providing access to all visitors.

If you'd like to know more, please check out SOHO's new publication, The History & Mystery of the Whaley House ($18.99), which is available in all SOHO museum shops or at whaleyhouse.org.


Solid raised paneled shutters provide security and privacy and add an extra layer of insulation. The
historically accurate shutters on the Whaley House are all fully operable.


Louvered shutters keep the room cool and ventilated on warm days.


The wrap-around back porch and lean-to kitchen have been freshly
painted in historic colors.


An up close view of a shutter mounting.


The verandah has been completely repainted in historic colors, including the sky blue ceiling, a popular
Victorian treatment believed to repel spiders and insects.


The rear façade showing the freshly painted trim and kitchen, and new shutters.


Brackets and cornices in a period design add style and beauty to the newly restored false front buildings.


The newly constructed porch, painted in historically accurate colors, is wheelchair-friendly, as is the new
bathroom installed between the two structures.


An ADA-compliant ramp has been installed, making the two false front buildings accessible to guests
in wheelchairs.


The false front buildings have been freshly painted in Rookwood Red, Roycroft Bottle Green, and Dark
Hunter Green, all period appropriate colors.


This new electrical box facing Harney Street controls the electricity to the entire property. It will be hidden
from inside the property as much as possible with landscaping.

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2476 San Diego Avenue · San Diego CA 92110 · Phone (619) 297-9327
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