The only interior tours  in 2020 were held on March 7. All other tours had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

Tours for 2021 are TBD.

We look forward to being able to share this remarkable historic site with you.

See details on the home page. Questions to


Walking Tours of the Sherman Heights Historic District are on hold due to the pandemic

We love doing a 2-hour walking tour of

Jesse Shepard’s neighborhood, the Sherman Heights Historic District, for your group of 8 or more. When the pandemic is over, contact us to schedule at


Permanent Victorians Mount Hope Cemetery Walking Tour - No October Walk due to pandemic

The 2-hour walking tour of Mount Hope Cemetery will be rescheduled for Spring 2021. Because the cemetery is owned by the City of San Diego, the walk is no cost but reservations are required. The tour will be conducted by author Charles Spratley.

More information will be posted closer to events.

Contact the FOVM via phone (619-255-9367)

or via e-mail


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The Friends of the Villa Montezuma love speaking about our favorite museum! Below are some of the past events where you could find us in person. (See the home page for current events.)

If you’d like the FOVM to speak at your event, please contact us at or 619-255-9367.

Because a federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) was used to restore the foundation, roof, and chimneys, the City of San Diego will have the museum open free of charge four times per year through 2020. The guided tours will be on the half hour from 9:00 a.m. through noon. About four weeks before each tour the City will post the tours on its event registration website. To guarantee your tour time please reserve your tour online through the City’s reservation system at Create an account, add the names of family members or friends who would like to go on tour with you, and sign up your group in one booking. Search for “Villa” on the registration website, not “Villa Montezuma.” Book yourself into the tour, then before you “check out”  (the tours are free) add other family and friends that you have on your account. The quarterly free tours of the museum are very popular. Walk-ups will be taken the day of the event if there is room. Walk-up guests will have to fill out the City’s liability form on site (guests registered online will have already taken care of this electronically). Let us know if you have questions.

Fall back Festival in the GaslamP - usually the First weekend in November
Usually the first Sunday in November.  A great event for kids and adults with good music and good museums represented!

”Permanent Victorians” Walk of Mount Hope Cemetery - 4th Saturday in October
The FOVM’s annual history walk of Mount Hope Cemetery is a 2-hour respectful walk through San Diego’s past. See the final resting places of San Diego’s most prominent citizens. 

Afterwards visit our altar to Jesse Shepard/Francis Grierson at the Sherman Heights Community Center during the Dia de los Muertos festival (with over 25 beautiful altars and ofrenda to see).  

Meet at the museum at the corner of 20th & K Streets. 
Below are FOVM Board members Alessandra Moctezuma, Todd McKerrow, and Barbara Busch in front of the FOVM altar designed by Alessandra.


The FOVM was delighted to be asked by the City to take hundreds of people through the mansion on June 27, 2015. Thank you to City of San Diego  Council member David Alvarez, Park and Rec, and City Engineering. Thank you to our elected officials (County Supervisor Greg Cox, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, State Senator Ben Hueso, and Juan Vargas in the House of Representatives) for their support and proclamations honoring the Friends of the Villa’s work to get the Villa restored and reopened. Thanks to our FOVM members and friends who helped guide in Victorian costume, including those who are our supporters at the Victorian Ladies Society and the San Diego Costume Guild. Read more about the City’s “soft” reopening event in the article in the San Diego Union-Tribune here. Free interior tours are usually in March, June, August, and October each year. See the home page for current dates.

Join the Friends of the Villa Montezuma today. We want to operate the museum full time, not just quarterly! The museum is too beautiful to be open only once per quarter. Questions?

April 29-May 1, 2015: Welcome new members from California Preservation Foundation Conference
The FOVM enjoyed meeting preservation professionals and enthusiasts from around the state at the CPF conference. Thanks to all the new members who joined at the event. The FOVM chair, Louise Torio, was delighted to be asked to help with the local Realtors training day (she shared her knowledge of the Mills Act property tax reduction for owning a historic building). The bus tour of San Diego historic districts included Jesse Shepard’s neighborhood, the Sherman Heights Historic District. Local real estate agents were treated to a special tour of the Villa Montezuma Museum (thanks to the City for this special treat).

Journal of San Diego History, Vol. 59, No.3
Thank you to Dr. Molly McClain and Dr. Iris Engstrand for asking us to contribute to the Journal of San Diego History with an article about the Villa Montezuma Museum at 125 years old.  We were pleased to record our long history of support and friendship with the San Diego Historical Society (now San Diego History Center) and we’re grateful to all the FOVM members who contributed to this article. More good things are to come for the Villa Montezuma Museum! Journals are available for sale at the San Diego History Center. Old photos? Tell us!

“Piercing the Veil” Book Release, 
FOVM Board Member Charles Spratley: Oct. 18, 2012
FOVM Board member Charles Spratley’s book, “Piercing the Veil: San Diego’s Haunted History,” has been released! This is a wonderful look at the REAL history behind the ghostly legends of San Diego. Charles’ purpose isn’t to debunk myths or tell you what to believe. Rather, he gives you the fascinating truths behind the stories, proving that fact is stranger -- and often more interesting -- than fiction. Thanks to our friends at the San Diego History Center for hosting Charles’ book launch on October 18. See the interview with Charles on San Diego Living here.

Latino Music Festival
Each summer the Sherman Heights Community Center puts on a festival with great music. We get to share history while dancing to wonderful bands. We think Jesse would approve! The most heartwarming part was meeting area residents who grew up with all the wonderful events and programming at the Villa and who told us how important it was for them. Thank you to all the area residents who support the FOVM! 


Archaeological dig at the Villa: May 2012
Before the City could replace the collapsed sewer line, we needed to know what might be underground in the area where the new pipes will go. In the Villa’s backyard we’ve always known of the circular brick structure buried. The archaeological dig confirmed that this was not a planter, but a fountain, made of the same Victorian-era brick as the original foundation of the house. At some point the shallow fountain was leveled and filled in. The remains of the fountain were reburied and protected in place so the digging for the new sewer pipe will not disturb it. 

Gaslight Gathering
This annual Steampunk convention in San Diego is terrific fun, and we love giving talks there. FOVM Board chairperson Louise Torio spoke on “A Victorian Spiritualist in San Diego: Jesse Shepard and the Villa Montezuma Museum.” FOVM vice chair Charles Spratley spoke about the origins of Victorian Spiritualism and his book, “Piercing the Veil,” about San Diego’s “haunted” sites. Thank you to all the new Friends we make at this event.

Valley of Shadows: September 18, 2011
The multitalented Jesse Shepard was better known in the second half of his life as author Francis Grierson. Grierson’s masterpiece is “The Valley of Shadows: Recollections of the Lincoln Country, 1858-63.” In this work from 1909, Grierson looked back at his childhood growing up in Illinois, with all the characters and conflicts in the turbulent years before the Civil War. Thanks to San Diego actor and playwright Kirk Allen and his cast of talented actors, the dialog and the dialects of The Valley of Shadows came alive during these presentations of selected readings from this important work. The event took place at the Point Loma Actors Theatre on the 163rd birthday of Jesse/Francis.

Pictured are actors Mysti Sadler, Kirk Allen, David Brubaker, Elouise Potomac, James Brown, Lolly Boroff. Not shown: Gwen Walls.

Villa Montezuma Museum on TV: 
July 18, 2011

The FOVM was pleased to welcome Larry Himmel and CBS Channel 8 to tour the museum and the Sherman Heights Historic District. Click here to see the segment. Rest in peace, Larry.
Thank you to the City of San Diego Park and Recreation team (Sergio and Francisco pictured at left, with Louise Torio, the late Larry Himmel, Charles Spratley, and Dr. Maria Bolivar).