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10. Whaley House

Location: San Diego, CA
Estimated home value: N/A
Notable ghost: “Yankee Jim” Robinson

In 1849, as news of the Gold Rush broke, young Thomas Whaley moved from New York to California and opened a hardware store in San Francisco. Arson destroyed his business in 1851, so he moved to San Diego — the present day Old Town San Diego — where he set up general store businesses. Always the entrepreneur, he started a brick-making business and used those kiln-fired bricks to build a granary. Then, in 1857, he built an adjacent two-story Greek Revival brick building where he and his wife, Rachel Pye, lived. It was considered the “finest new brick block in Southern California” by the San Diego Herald, and cost $10,000. The walls were finished with plaster made from ground seashells.

The site of the house is also where gallows once stood and where “Yankee Jim” Robinson was hanged for attempted grand larceny. Whaley reportedly witnessed the hanging, but was not fazed by it, since he bought the property a few years later, removed the gallows, and built the Whaley family home on the site. Shortly after moving in, heavy footsteps "from the boots of a large man" could he heard throughout the house. Whaley concluded it was Yankee Jim, whose spirit is "alive and well " two centuries later.

Two later tragedies occurred in the house: the Whaleys’ second child, Thomas, Jr, died at 18 months of scarlet fever and their fifth child, Violet, committed suicide in 1885. The home was designated a California State Historic Landmarkin 1932 and is open to public tours.

Thomas Whaley also had some prominent family history: His grandfather, Alexander Whaley, supplied George Washington with badly needed muskets during the American Revolution’s Battle of White Plains and his mother, Rachel, made some shrewd real estate deals including buying “Sheeps Meadows,” which was used as grazing land in New York City. It is now known as Central Park.

By Diane Tuman, Zillow.com

Photo: Joe Mabel