The Whaley House

Felicia Huffman
6 min readFeb 7, 2021

San Diego is considered the birthplace of California. Father Junipero Serra established the mission of San Diego de Alcala on Presidio Hill on July 16, 1769. During the early 1820s, a small Mexican community was created that eventually became El Pueblo San Diego by 1835. Since it became the first permanent Spanish settlement in California, it is just as significant as Jamestown. The US flag was raised over San Diego in 1846.

San Diego is known for all of its haunts, but the most significant one is the Whaley House. It was built in 1857. As soon as the house was built, it became the center of government, social affairs, and business in San Diego. It is the oldest brick house in southern California. Over its lifetime, the Whaley House has served as a courthouse, theater, and boarding house. It was also the home of Thomas and Anna Whaley and their children. Now, the Whaley House is own and operated by the San Diego Historical Society.

Thomas Whaley was a businessman, the seventh of ten children of Scots-Irish immigrants born in New York on October 5, 1823. He moved to San Francisco during the gold rush and then traveled to San Diego in September 1851. Two years later, he moved back to New York and married Anna Delaunay on August 14, 1853. They moved back to San Diego on December 7, 1853, and moved into what became the Whaley House on August 22, 1857. They had six children together, Francis Hinton, Thomas Jr, Anna Amelia, George, Violet Eloise, and Corinne Lillian. Thomas Je contracted scarlet fever at only 18 months old and died on January 29, 1858.

After the death of their child, and the fire that destroyed their store, the family moved to San Francisco for a few years. During the summer of 1868, Thomas invested in some new capital stock and they moved back to San Diego. Thomas had the Whaley House fixed up, and the family moved back in on December 12, 1868.

The Whaley’s did not have a perfect life. On January 5, 1882, both Violet Eloise and Anna Amelia were married. Violet married a man named George Bertolacci, and Anna Amelia married her first cousin, John Whaley. Two weeks into Violet’s marriage, as they were traveling back east on their honeymoon, she awoke one morning to discover that her husband had left. As the family soon learned, he was a con artist who had just married Violet because of the substantial dowry…

Felicia Huffman

Hello, I am F.A. Huffman. I am a writer and crafter at heart, but currently work FT to pay the bills. Find me at, FB, Insta, & Twitter.