The home, originally built in 1875, once belonged to William Shorey, the only African-American whaling captain in Pacific coast history. Back when the Bay Area was America’s whaling capital, this feat made Captain Shorey a local icon.
Newspaper reporters would row out to his ship to grab scoops about his death-defying voyages. Under headlines that inevitably blared his nickname “Black Ahab,” articles described him as hero who battled typhoons and saved his crew from horrific disasters. The media swooned over his brilliant, beautiful wife, Julia Ann, the daughter of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest Black families. Later in life, he was celebrated as a pillar of Oakland’s early African-American community for his philanthropic work, such as hosting a dinner party with Booker T. Washington to raise funds for the Tuskegee Institute.