Robinson Rose House

More From San Diego More From California

Inhabited by the spirits of past owners or folks connected to this place.

They are amused with modern conveniences and people.


This two-story abode was built in 1853 by a successful lawyer, Judge James W. Robinson, who advanced in his legal career and became a Judge in San Diego, as well as a positive force in the development of San Diego. It served not only as the Robinson family home but was also the headquarters of the San Diego Herald, the San Diego and Gila Railroad office, as well as other private offices.

An excavation of the site was done in 1987. As nothing was found of the original structure, an exact reconstruction was necessary using old records, historic maps, photographs and other sources. This now serves as Old Town State Historic Park’s visitor center and has on display a wonderful model of Old Town as it looked in 1872, created by Joseph Toigo.



Judge James W. Robinson (1800-1857) came to San Diego from Texas in the Spring of 1850, having developed a successful law practice. When he died in October, 1857, the local newspaper heralded him as “the most prominent man during the last six years, in every enterprise which relate to our prosperity and advancement.”

He suffered from an ailment during the last few years of his life and experienced financial difficulties according to letters he wrote to his brother William, explaining that money owed to Sarah be sent right away.

After his death, his widow sold the abode to Louis Rose, who probably purchased it as a family residence. Fire destroyed the roof in 1874 and the building fell into ruins by the turn-of-the-century. Other structures were built on top of the foundations throughout the years.

Though one cannot forget his great contributions to San Diego, there were skeletons in the Judge’s closet. They came rattling out 30 years after his death in 1857. In Ohio, it emerged that he had been legally married to Mary Isdell and was the father of three children with her, Albinal, Martha, and Robert, whom he’d completely abandoned in his early adult years, leaving them in dire financial straits, with a heavily mortgaged 221 acre farm, which they had to sell under foreclosure. In 1830, He had gotten a new start by running away and marrying 18 year old Sarah, even leaving this first family out of his final will and testament.

Though despicable, his solution for escaping his unhappy marriage was not unusual in the nineteenth century, because it was virtually impossible to trace runaway spouses. “Robinson’s case seems typical. No family member knew of his whereabouts, until he wrote his brother William in 1840. Husbands seldom pursued divorce because the courts generally awarded them custody of the children.”

If it were not for a series of unforeseen events that took place thirty-one years after his death, Robinson’s early years might have remained a complete mystery. Though the Judge had worked hard to keep his whereabouts from his first family, they did get just compensation from his estate in 1888. Sarah had cashed $10,000 in government bonds at the Fourth National Bank of Cincinnati in 1888. An employee alerted the heirs of Robinson’s first marriage, who contested the will, dragging Robinson’s second family into court.



Though we don’t know for sure who is haunting the place, several entities love the new abode. Because it is an exact copy of the original, perhaps Judge Robinson and Sarah have moved back in, reliving all the good times they had there.

Or the entities could be tied to other quarters built on the site, or perhaps to entities who while alive occupied the businesses and offices are here.

Not Afraid to Appear

Several different apparitions have appeared before park employees and tourists. Some are seen as cloud-like vapors while others look like people, dressed in 18th century attire.

The clear apparition of a man dressed in an 18th century shirt and tie has been seen in one of the upstairs rooms, going about his business when the place is quiet and not open.

Electrical Toys

The entities who reside here like to play with the electrical conveniences, like the lights, and enjoy an unauthorized ride up and down the elevator on occasion.

Sounds of a Large Man

Footsteps made by a large man can be heard upstairs.

Spectral  Temptations

Women’s hair has been tugged at and played with playfully.



Yes Indeed!

Eye witnesses have given testimony.



2645 San Diego Avenue
San Diego, California
(619) 237-6770

The Robinson Rose House is currently used as the Visitor Center for San Diego’s Old Town Historic Park.



  • Haunted Places
    The National Directory by Dennis William Hauck – 2002

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

Haunts in San Diego Haunts in California