Save Our Heritage Organisation
June 2001 - Volume 32, Issue 2
Whaley House Happenings
We are still awaiting the outcome of the county's court case with the previous lessees of the Whaley House. A date to set trial has been scheduled for June 15th. We are hopeful the outcome will be in favor of the citizens of San Diego County, and that the Whaley and other San Diego historic artifacts and furnishings will remain for the public to enjoy and learn from.
Although these delays are holding up much of the curatorial and restoration processes, SOHO has still been able to make some significant progress in the effort to interpret the property more appropriately. Right now, the county has begun exterior maintenance by repainting the Whaley house. Some of the work you can see going on is the removal of the ivy from the northwest side, which was undermining the brick foundation, and the removal of plantings on the southeast side. These plantings aside from being in the way of the painting crew were damaging the house significantly and were non-historic. Water from the irrigation on the southeast side was actually seeping moisture into the house creating both a serious mold and mildew situation along with destroying the structure and its contents. The beautiful and appropriate to the period "Cup of Gold" vine on the northwest side will remain, it has been pruned from the back to protect the house. The house is being repainted both as a part of the normal maintenance required and also as a part of presenting the house in its accurate period color schemes.
The changes are actually slight but will appear dramatic, as is often the case when a historic home wears its proper colors. The stucco coat on part of the exterior brickwork will remain basically the same, with a slight change of color from the dark red-brown it is now to the brick color that it would have been. The stuccoed brick, which covers portions of the house, is original and was a common practice of the 1850's where homeowners were attempting to emulate cut stone. They would cover structures with cement stucco and then score it into blocks. Why the stucco was never completed is part of the ongoing research by SOHO historians. We know the house was never finished in many areas including doors and windows because of primary sources, these being original letters from Judge Ainsworth to Thomas Whaley while Ainsworth was renting the house from the Whaleys when they lived in San Francisco.
The shutters, although not original to the house, will be painted in the period color of dark green. The original shutters were of a moveable louver construction, while the court house section had raised paneled shutters. The trim will stay a bright white, and the verandah itself will be rebuilt although at this time it will not be reconfigured to its original vertically oriented floor boards because of cost restraints. However, it will be painted its original medium slate grey color. The verandah floors were never left the natural varnished wood finish that they are today; this change will also be helpful to the rigorous maintenance required by such a heavily trafficked area. The ceiling of the verandah will be painted sky blue, which is its historic color. This is all part of the master restoration plan SOHO is in the process of developing.
The Garden Committee has been very busy inventorying the existing plantings. They have developed the criteria that will be followed for the restoration on the grounds. More details on all of this will be given in our next Reflections newsletter when Garden Chairperson Jessica McGee will provide her committee's update.
SOHO has also met with Access San Diego to discuss making the property wheelchair accessible. The biggest challenge, and luckily the easiest to deal with, is the maze of hedges that enclose and overtake the property at present. These are quite difficult to maneuver and impossible for those in wheelchairs. They are inappropriate to the period of the house and are actually in the style of an English Victorian garden, not an American frontier homestead, and will be removed as part of the master plan. It is always painful to remove plants from a site, however it is an essential and important aspect of restoring a historic property. We will endeavor to return the Whaley house to as close to its original appearance as possible. Because of the many changes to the site, such as decreased parcel size, and the addition of other buildings, such as the Derby-Pendleton, compromises will be necessary. As a County Park, areas for events, need to be provided, however, SOHO will be able to do quite a bit to bring the Whaley house back to its most significant period, the 1850's to 1870's.
It is SOHO's intention to have the Whaley house and its gardens continue to be a source of beauty and pride for Old Town while allowing a more appropriate historical interpretation of the property and provide greater access to the property and program areas.
These are the beginnings of a long-term restoration. The research, although impeded by the unavailability of the Whaley Family papers, is nevertheless being pieced together. We are most fortunate to have at our disposal some of the finest research historians and restoration authorities both on the SOHO board and in our membership at large.
Bruce Coons recently uncovered the Historic American Buildings Survey report done on the house in 1960 when June Redding was interviewed, at that time some of the original papers were photographed and copied. One of these is a hand drawn map, by Thomas Whaley, done in the 1870's, of the first floor of the house and the grounds. This is an exciting piece of history and is an invaluable resource that can be used in the interpretation of the site. Kathleen Flanigan, who is responsible for the extensive 19 page chronological history of the house and family, used during our volunteer training, continues her in-depth research and has been able to piece many of the puzzling questions together. SOHO looks forward to the day when the historic Whaley papers are, once again, available for public good. Until then our sleuths continue their hard work.
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