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Bringing History Alive at the Whaley House

By William Doyle, Docent

I am pleased to be a docent at the Whaley House and to bring alive the history of San Diego's pioneer merchant and public spirited citizen, Thomas Whaley. I first began researching and portraying local historic characters after visiting the Marston house over two years ago and discovering that I look like San Diego's Merchant Prince, George Marston. I enjoy dressing in historically correct period attire and I have attended and participated in various events for the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), San Diego Historical Society, San Diego Chinese Historical Society, Lemon Grove Historical Society, Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation, and Cabrillo National Monument.

As a member of SOHO, I have spoken before the San Diego Historical Resources Board and the California Coastal Commission in support of SOHO's concerns, and authored the article, Coastal Commission Rejects Extension of Border Triple Fence (April, 2004 issue of Reflections).

Weekly at Cabrillo National Monument as a living history docent, I research and portray Captain Robert Decatur Israel, who was the lighthouse keeper at the Old Point Loma Lighthouse from 1871 to 1891. Prior to his work at the lighthouse, Robert had an interesting life in Old Town and held various jobs such as blacksmith, constable, and noted carriage maker. I was fascinated with the historical connection of Robert with Thomas Whaley. Thomas arrived in San Diego in 1851, one year after Robert arrived, and they were together in the Fitzgerald's Volunteers, a forty-man local militia group defending San Diego from the Indian uprising. Archives at the Cabrillo National Monument indicate that Robert bought items from the Whaley Store. Bricks manufactured by Mr. Whaley were used to finish the Old Point Loma Lighthouse tower to accommodate the Fresnel lens in 1855. Lillian Whaley, Thomas's youngest daughter, wrote that she enjoyed straw-rides to the lighthouse. She wrote, "We danced the night away, and Captain Bob was more nimble on his feet than any of the rest."

Last October, Whaley House Docents Lynn Hamilton and Robin Sweeten asked me to portray Thomas Whaley in the "Shadows of the Past" Halloween production at the Whaley House. This was a wonderful experience and fueled my interest to research and learn more about Thomas Whaley.

I am excited to be a part of the SOHO Docent Staff and bring history alive at the Whaley House and Adobe Chapel. In the spirit of merchants George Marston and Thomas Whaley, I can be found at times selling merchandise (and tickets) in the SOHO Museum Shop. Please come by and visit!

2005 - Volume 36, Issue 1

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Happy New Year!


The Ranch House at Warner's


Progress Report on Red Roost/Red Rest


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SOHO Files Suit in Del Mar to Stop Demolition

2004 Historical Landmarks


Mission Hills Heritage


SOHO would like to extend appreciation


In Memoriam


Adobe Chapel of the Immaculate Conception


Our Wish List for the Adobe Chapel


Thank You's


Adobe Chapel Welcomes the Old Town Community

An Exciting Opportunity for Volunteers


Bringing History Alive at the Whaley House


Who is the Chinese Gardener at the Whaley House?

Cheap San Diego Housing


Resource Directory (33-page pdf)


Four Treatment Approaches


Yeah, yeah, yeah - Modernism Rocks!


Some Like It Preserved


People In Preservation


Getting to Know Your SOHO Staff


Houses Available, Must be Moved


Notice: Date Moved for SOHO Board Directors Meetings

Notice to all Members with email


Found San Diego


Strength in Numbers


Lost San Diego


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