whaley house

Historic Whaley House Holds Court for First Time in 151 Years

As a working courthouse for a single day, four civil cases were heard and all rules of the court applied

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For the first time in more than a century, one of San Diego’s most historic sites served its original purpose on Tuesday.

Old Town’s Whaley House held court for the first time since 1871 in what tourists and locals alike believe to be one of the most haunted locations in town. To prepare for the momentous day, workers at the iconic attraction took four months to modernize the courthouse.

“Believe it or not, we are set up as a courthouse already -- it’s just a courthouse from 1871,” said Victor Santana, the Operations Manager at the Whaley House. “So, coordinating with the county and ensuring that we have the appropriate furniture, the appropriate lighting, Wi-Fi, things like that, it’s been a few months of a lot of hard work but it’s great to see it coming together finally today.”

As a working courthouse for a single day, four civil cases were heard and all rules of the court applied.

Before sessions began, the bailiff introduced Judge Richard Whitney and noted the historical significance of the Whaley House serving as a court again.

“It’s a very awesome feeling to know that I am the first judge since 1871 -- right after the Civil War, really -- to sit on this bench,” Judge Whitney said. “So, it’s a huge honor for me and for the court to be here.”

Old Town was the seat of government and justice for San Diego in the late 1800s, before moving to downtown. It held court from 1868 to 1871.

The last time court was held on the site, capital punishment cases were heard and executions were held on location. That’s how the Whaley House became known as one of the most popular haunted houses in San Diego.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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