Just as the Whaley House today may be said to echo to the footsteps of those who wrote San Diego’s history a century ago, so in the future will it echo to the footsteps of the little army of devoted men and women who are responsible for its preservation.
Restoration by the State of California of the Wells Fargo Building at Columbia, California, had proved that a tottering, two-story brick structure with no foundation could be saved. Thousands of hours of engineering and historical research went into the project, and work began, in a cautious and deliberate fashion. Operating in a constant danger of structural collapse, the County’s workmen provided a sound foundation, and then “scalped” the inside courses of brick from the structure.
Bricks which were sound were retained for exterior patching. Steel reinforcing and concrete were applied from the inside; today the Whaley House is in effect a reinforced concrete structure with a brick outer facing, and will stand for centuries. Rotted and termite-riddled wood was ripped away, and structural members were replaced with new, chemically-treated wood. Mouldings and trim were carefully preserved for future use, and that which was too far gone was faithfully reproduced.
The people of California are indebted to the Board of Supervisors for their vision and sympathy in preserving for posterity an historical landmark of unusual value; may their trail-blazing action be recognized and followed elsewhere. A debt of gratitude is due also to the workmen from the County Operations Department, under the guidance of Rufus Parks, to whom the restoration was not merely another job of construction and repair. As they worked on the venerable structure they came to love the old place, and this attitude is reflected in the character of the work of restoration.
Credit is due as well to the Society of California Pioneers, of San Francisco; they made available the services of Dr. Elliot Evans, their curator, whose extensive knowledge of architecture of Nineteenth Century California was invaluable.
To list those who donated time, effort, furniture and priceless heirlooms would take a book as long as this one. To them we owe our sincere thanks, and we are grateful as well to Leopold Kalish, owner of the property, who was willing to accept the knowledge of having performed a public service, in lieu of the profit which would have come from commercial use of the ground on which the building stands.
JAMES E. READING, President
Historical Shrine Foundation
April 25, 1960