Visiting San Diego’s Marston House
I’ve lived near San Diego my entire life yet much of it remains a mystery to me. I know Orange and LA Counties like the back of my hand and have seen much of the Inland Empire and Ventura yet San Diego remains elusive. I’m determined to remedy that and hope to visit it more often in the new year. In fact, I’ve already had a jump start as recently I headed south to visit the historic Marston House Museum & Garden.
Currently managed by Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), a San Diego equivalent to the LA Conservancy, the Marston House recently celebrated it’s 10th year under their care. Located on the edge of Balboa Park the home and garden has been beautifully preserved.
Designed and built in 1905 by William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill the house is a stunning example of the Arts and Crafts movement. It was designed for George W. Marston and his wife, Anna Gunn Marston who founded San Diego’s premier department store Marston’s.
Founded in 1878 Marston’s was a San Diego institution for nearly 100 years. The flagship store located in downtown San Diego encompassed an entire city block until its demolition in the late 1960’s. George Marston was a man ahead of his time and was devoted to social justice from the start. No matter your gender, color or creed you were welcome to work at Marston’s and all positions were available to you. For instance, in the 1920’s 5 out of 13 upper managers in the purchasing department were women which was extraordinary for the time.
When you visit the Marston House you’ll find a small museum devoted to the history of the family and Marston’s Department Store. Several artifacts have been lovingly restored and though I had not heard of the store before visiting I soon learned just how much of an impact it had on the community.
It’s a shame such a treasure has been lost to time but, luckily, the home still stands and is absolutely beautiful.
Although the Marston’s were the sole owners of the home (daughter Mary bequeathed the house to the city upon her death at 107) few of the furnishings are original. As it was occupied for so long most of the early furniture was discarded and virtually no photos exist of its earliest incarnation. SOHO has instead furnished it faithfully to the period and it’s quite a showpiece.
While most of the furnishings are not original the home does contain much of it’s original architectural elements and highlights include the fireplace, sleeping porch and enclosed bathtub (a result of Irving Gill’s obsession with cleanliness and good hygiene).
I had no idea what to expect when visit the Marston House and was blown away by this stunning example of Arts & Crafts design. The home is beautiful preserved and is certainly in good hands with SOHO. It was a perfect introduction to the history of San Diego and I can’t wait to discover more as I continue my visits south.