Carlsbad Historical Society - The Shipley-Magee House - Self-Guided Tour

This house, built in 1886-87 by Samuel Church Smith, one of Carlsbad’s town founders, is original to site, one of the first homes built of wood on the coast and one of the two remaining original 1880s wood buildings. Town Founders brought all materials t in by train, highlighting the significance of rail service to the development of the town. Previous homes in the area were constructed of adobe, and were found on the inland ranches. The large eucalyptus trees found in front of the house were planted as demarcation for the town’s dirt streets. The house was sold in 1890 to Alexander and Julia Shipley. They moved permanently to the house in 1896 and the house remained in their family until the mid 1970s. Their daughter Florence Shipley Magee deeded the house, and grounds to the City of Carlsbad to be used for historic and recreational purposes. The Carlsbad Historical Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Carlsbad History operates the museum.

Living Room

Fine art owned by Florence Shipley Magee’s father, Alexander Shipley dominates the room. Above the couch is a landscape of Au Sable Lake in the Adirondacks, and to the right is an early view of Yosemite Valley by Hugo Fisher, a noted 19th century painter. A portrait of an 18th century relative of Alexander Shipley, painter unknown, completes the trio of paintings. It is believed that these paintings were bought in San Francisco when the Shipley family lived in northern California. Fisher a Czechoslovakian immigrant, moved to San Francisco from New York in 1886. Much of Hugo Fisher's work was destroyed in the SF 1906 earthquake. The upholstered furniture in this room have been in the house since the days of the Shipley family.

A more recent acquisition, the Orchestrion, donated by Paul Eckert, reproduces the full sounds of a brass band.

 West Bedroom

The beautiful walnut furniture in this room are from the Schutte family, whose ancestor, Gerhard Schutte was also one of the early founders of Carlsbad. The crazy quilt on the south wall was donated by Mary Evans Johnson, a descendant of Samuel Church Smith, another town founder of Carlsbad and original owner of this house. The quilt was made by her grandmother, and contains many mementos, in words as well as fabrics, of the family’s life in Nebraska.

The painting over the bed depicts the rustic cabin that stood for many years at the corner of Madison and Grand, and was the home of Grace Polk, one of Carlsbad’s first postmistresses. Mrs. Polk lived in this cabin until the mid 1970s without running water or electricity.

 2978 Carlsbad Blvd. Birthplace of a City- West Bedroom Closet

People and events often contribute to our understanding of history, but so do places. 2978 Carlsbad Blvd is just that sort of exhibit documenting the growth of the city through the place where history was made. Originally constructed as Town Founder Gerhard Schutte’s family home, the building evolved into the famous Kentner family home and Twin Inns restaurant, and later into restaurant, office and shop space.

Dining Room

 The needlework furniture was sewn and donated by Elizabeth McCauley. The large twin china cabinets were owned by Florence Shipley Magee.

 All Aboard

The arrival of rail transportation opened Carlsbad to the rest of the country and created an environment of growth, development, and commerce. Lanterns exhibited were original to our local Santa Fe Depot and used to flag down trains. The depot log highlights the variety of items transported into and out of Carlsbad by rail.


Originally a small bedroom, this room is now displayed as a kitchen equipped in the style of the early ‘30s. The photographs highlight the variety of Carlsbad’s agricultural past; ranching, avocado, fruits, and flowers.

 Central Hall


It is currently housing an exhibit of the Sipping cups from the mineral water spa of Carlsbad’s sister city of Karlovy Vary in the present day Czech Republic. Town founders named Carlsbad after this site when our mineral water was found to be similar in content.

The small adjacent alcove highlights our early city services of fire and police.



The back hallway interprets the life of Carlsbad’s children through the exhibition of toys and school memorabilia. Many of the items donated and on display depict the educational evolution of the Carlsbad School system from one small school organized by parents and servicing only elementary age children to the large district of today which includes three high schools.

 Shipley Magee Room- East Bedroom

 This house was owned by the Shipley Family from 1890 to 1974. The last resident of the house was Florence Shipley Magee. The Shipley Magee Room features some clothing worn by Florence Shipley Magee, sewing samples created by Florence and her mother Julia, various items owned by her father Alexander and grandfather Thomas.

 The red dotted white summer beach dress in the glass case was owned and worn by Florence when in her early 20s and is an example of typical fashion for affluent women during the early 1900s. Note the very tiny waist-line.

 Located throughout the room are examples of tatting, crochet and jet bead work. These are just a small sample of the many Shipley sewing items donated to the historical society by the Walwick family. Florence and her mother were avid needle crafters, and gardeners.

 In 1858, Thomas Shipley, a merchant sea captain and Alexander’s father, created a charcoal sketch of a woman knocking on a door.The original was donated to the historical society after it was found in a nearby home.

 Also on exhibit is one of the few known photographs of a young Alexander Shipley. This was taken while he lived in New Zealand and shows him seated next to Maoris’. Shipley was representing the United States as vice consul while also engaged in business for the Arnold–Hines Gum trade.


Carlsbad Historical Society

P.O. Box 252 Carlsbad, CA 92018-252

Tel: (442) 500-4471

Hours: Sat- Sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.