James Johnston, a forty-niner from Ohio, established a homestead on this wild, romantic vista of sloping fields and ocean shore in 1853. For his Californiano bride, Petra Maria de Jara, he built this typical eastern saltbox, whose origins from the American colonial period date back to medieval East Anglian architecture. Rare in California, this "New England farmhouse" is the earliest American home still standing along the coatside of San Mateo County. Its handhewn redwood timbers from a link with the past when San Benito or "Spanish town" consisted of a few adobes. The small chapel on the second floor and the separate cookhouse reflect the influence of its Spanish mistress and the transplanted house uniquely Californian. Known as "The White House of Half Moon Bay," it was the center of the social and cultural life of its day. The history of the house and the Johnston family is a history of a pioneer period of the American West.
In recognition of its preservation for future generations by the Johnston House Foundation, Inc., the Spanishtown Historical Society, and the City of Half Moon Bay, this plaque was dedicated on May 14, 1976 by the American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of San Mateo County.
"When it was new, the house was painted white. Known as the 'White House,' it was doubtless a striking sight, especially in summer. For John Johnston said that in his boyhood days his father's ranch - sloping from the hills to the ocean - was in summertime one sweep of golden grain."
from the White House of Half Moon Bay, by Malcolm Watkins.