Wednesday, February 18, 2009
On Foot in San Diego: Marston House
Remember the guy, George Marston, that built our beautiful Spanish mission style museum on Presidio Hill in 1929. The same guy built the Marston House in 1905 as his personal residence.
I was one of many San Diegans trying to see the house before it was closed to the public last weekend for lack of funds. I wasn't able to get into the house. Even so, I walked around the grounds and got the feel of this architectural style -- Arts and Crafts, designed by Irving Gill and his associate William Hebbard. Seems that while the house was being built in 1905 in an English cottage style -- if you can consider 8500 square feet a cottage -- Mr. Gill made a trip back to Rhode Island to supervise some other projects and on the way back stopped by Chicago where Prairie style houses were being built. By the time he came back to San Diego the Marston house was half built. He changed what he could of the second story to take away some of the Tudor look and, voila!, a nice simple craftsman design, "form follows function", indeed one of the best preserved orginal craftsmen in southern California.
I couldn't get to the inside of the house, but I could look into the inside story of the man. These people are always amazing.
In 1870, at age 19, George came to California from Wisconsin with his father and took a job at the Horton Hotel. Among his job duties was dusting off guests as they arrived at the front door. Kind of gives you an idea of what San Diego was like before all our vegetation was planted to keep the desert in place. San Diego then had a population of 2300 people. Hard to imagine, that's just a little larger than my entire undergraduate college.
Within three years, George was secretary of the Chamber of Commerce and by age 28 he had his own dry goods store which grew into a department store. He would have had the Marston Department Store downtown about the same time in the 1880's when Wyatt Earp was our sheriff and running a gambling saloon where Horton Plaza now stands. Needless to say, George made a nice fortune and used his money, talent and foresight to give us the beautiful Balboa Park next door to his house, Presidio Park, and contribute to establishing Torrey Pines State Park, all of which have helped keep San Diego beautiful.
He died in 1946, three years after I was born. Why am I not surprised he was still ice skating at age 96?
Read more about George here.
Next story, the Victorian Villa Montezuma.