William Heath Davis House

Constructed by William Heath Davis in 1850, the house remains the oldest structure in what is now downtown San Diego.

The house is a pre-framed lumber "salt box" family home, from the East Coast shipped to California by boat around Cape Horn.

Davis, who never lived in the house, died in relative poverty. The spirit of an unknown Victorian woman however, still resides there today.

Outside of William Heath Davis House Old Town San Diego
parlor setting with old phots

A 1977 San Diego newspaper article featured interviews with the occupants of the house at the time who reported stories of the lights going on and off by themselves. What's even more unusual about this is that the house was not wired for electricity until 1984 - the lights that went on and off were either gas or coal oil lamp flames - requiring a match to light!

lights on in back room of the house

Even now, the house continues to have unexplained events related to its lighting. Respected officials of the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation report incidents of the electric lights going on, but never when anyone is there. Each evening all interior lights are turned off before the security alarm is set. In the morning, a light in a back room of the house may be found back on.

spirit see at the top of the stairs

Gold braded ropes are used in the house to guide the flow of tours from one room to the next. After the last tour of the day, the ropes are hung across the doorways. Several times In the mornings the returning staff have found  the ropes off one of the hooks, as if to not impede an unseen visitor to the room the night before.

stairs go up to chilling space

On the second floor landing there are a set of stairs that lead to an un-insulated attic space that is kept closed off, in part, to control the temperature of the house. However even in the summer months if you reach up near where the steps end you may feel an unnatural chill and a slight breeze through your fingers.

be careful who you follow up these stairs

A Victorian woman has been seen at or near the top to the stairs leading to the second floor, wearing a long skirt with petticoats and high-button shoes. With most encounters, visitors reported seeing the woman from the waist down only.

Once, a tour guide coming to start a tour, found the group already starting up the stairs. Several in the group stated that a woman in full costume standing at the top of the stairs had invited them to come up. There were no guides in costume that day, and there was no one upstairs at the time.


medicine chest

A very old ship captain's medicine chest is on display in the "hospital room". The lid is always kept open.

Several times the morning staff have come in to find the lid closed. It is not unusual for items to be found moved from their usual place to another during the night. The house is a museum, and the displays are kept in strict order.

In this room a cold spot can sometimes be felt along the West wall, near the door. Several visitors have refused to enter that room after feeling a foreboding presence in the doorway.

child's room at the top of the staris

The child's room on the second floor reflects the time period of 1880. Many of the items are antique and have passed though many small hands. This room is at the top of the stairs where the apparition of the Victorian woman has been seen.


dining room items move in the night

The dining room looks as it would have looked from 1886 through 1900. The table is set for a party of four that never arrive. Items from the room have been moved in the night by unseen forces.

bedroom with military clothing

The house was constructed to be used as a housing unit for military officers. In the first floor Military Room you can see the furnishings and uniform clothing authentically representing the period of pre-Civil war 1850-1860. The doorway to his room especially is subject to having its rope barrier moved during the night.

The William Heath Davis House is located at 410 Island Avenue at the corner of 4th Avenue, in the heart of San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. This historic house is kept open through donations and $3 museum tours which are offered Tue - Sat 11-3.

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