The Davis-Horton House (formerly known as the William Heath Davis House) built in 1850, is the oldest standing structure in Downtown San Diego. It serves as the home of the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation (GQHF) and the Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House.
Originally, the house was one of several saltbox-style structures shipped from Portland, Maine, to San Diego, which had little wood for construction due to a lack trees along the coast. A saltbox structure takes its name from its resemblance to the wooden lidded box in which salt was once kept. Typically, a saltbox structure has just one story in the back and two stories in the front. A long pitched roof that slopes down to the back, flat front and central chimney are also recognizable features.
The houses were intended to comprise the first settlement in what was then called “New Town.” The structures were erected near what is now State and Market Streets near San Diego’s oldest public park, Pantoja Park.
In 1873, Anna Scheper purchased the house after it had been moved from State and Market to Eleventh and K Streets. Anna contracted with San Diego County to run the house as the “County Hospital.” She earned $1.00 per patient per day.
A late owner, George Deyo inherited the house in the 1930s and passed it on to the Lanuza Family in 1977, who in turn, donated the house to the City of San Diego to become a museum. The house was moved to its current location when the museum restoration began. Electricity was installed for the first time in 1984, and 17 layers of wallpaper were peeled back to reveal earlier décor. Former Museum Curator Mary Joralmon worked tirelessly to restore the house to its current state as a museum for visitors to enjoy.
Each room in the house depicts a period in its history: from its first use as a pre-Civil War military officers’ barracks, to a county hospital, to a private residence. Various individuals have occupied the home, including: Alonzo Horton, considered the “Father of San Diego,” an alleged German spy, and several families. The Davis-Horton House is the only home in which Horton lived that is still standing.
Today, the Davis-Horton House welcomes thousands of visitors annually.