Fact #20

Have you ever read a story so enthralling you wanted to step into the world of the characters? Perhaps you’ve imagined visiting Anne Shirley’s attic bedroom at Green Gables, munching your way through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, or wandering the forests of Narnia. For history buffs, visiting a genuine historical site is a bit like that.

In the course of doing research for Waltz in the Wilderness, I came across the names William Heath Davis and Alonzo E. Horton numerous times. After a while, it almost seemed as though I knew them. So when I had the opportunity to stop by the Davis-Horton House in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego’s Downtown, how could I pass it up?

Davis was the first visionary to take steps toward creating what would eventually become Downtown San Diego.  After purchasing property southwest of what we now know as “Old Town” San Diego, Davis ordered pre-fabricated houses from Maine and set them up in his “New Town.” For reasons beyond Davis’ control, New Town was not a success and became known as “Davis’ Folly.”

Already the father of a town in Wisconsin, Horton came to San Diego to succeed where Davis had failed, and succeed he did. He began his town just south of where Davis had begun (where we now have the Gaslamp Quarter) and purchased 960 acres of land. He also purchased half-interest in, and lived in, the Davis-Horton House with his wife, Sarah.

In 1873 the house was purchased by Anna Scheper and moved a few blocks to its present location where it became the County Hospital. Anna Scheper earned $1.00 per patient per day.

In the 1890s it became a boarding house. The owners of the boarding house adopted a 6 year old boy named George Deyo who, as an adult, began the efforts to preserve the house. This is one of my favorite parts of this house’s story.

You never know how a single choice may shape the future. 

As an added bonus there is a traditional museum in the basement of the house, complete with a costume area where they encourage you to dress up and take selfies.



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