While San Diego is not one of the oldest cities in the United States, it is a city with a rich history that pre-dates the European arrival and continues through the present day. Some of San Diego’s historic structures, like the Old Mission Dam are quite old, and some, like the Whaley House, are infamous for their history and for other reasons. Other structures, like the Spruce Street Suspension bridge, are hidden in plain sight. Correspondingly, exploring San Diego takes patience and dedication to find all of its secrets. One of these secrets historic locations in San Diego is the Marston House, which is hidden next to one of the city’s most popular attractions, Balboa Park.
The Marston House is also one of the city’s best-preserved historic locations, and is also regarded as one of the finest examples of the Arts and Crafts movement in the entirety of California. The Marston House was constructed in 1905 for George Marston and his family; and is a three story house along with its accompanying outbuildings (Carriage House) and grounds. While many things could be said about George Marston, the most important are that he was a civic leader in the city of San Diego, a noted conservationist, and a contemporary of John Spreckels. George Marston was also the head of Marston’s Department Store, which was an iconic spot in downtown San Diego, before it was sold in 1961. The Marston house was converted into a museum in 1987, and is today operated by the Save our Heritage Organization (“SOHO”) as a museum.
Directions/Fees/Tours. The Marston House is located at 3525 Seventh Avenue, San Diego, 92103, and is tucked away above the 163 Freeway at the Northwestern corner of Balboa Park. Street parking is limited along that section of Seventh Avenue, but there is ample parking within Balboa Park next to the Marston House that is at most, a five to ten minute walk. The Marston House is open Friday-Monday, year-round from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours of the inside of the house occur on the hour, and are run by knowledgeable SOHO guides, and are roughly 40-45 minutes in length. As of 2016, the cost of admission (and the tour) is $15.00 for adults; $12.00 for seniors, and $7.00 for children above the age of five. The gardens can be toured for free year-round.
Tips: Although there are many interesting things to see inside the Marston House, the two most interesting items I found were first, Jack London’s writing tablet, which was hand carved, and second, a photo of the property from 1905 when the house was constructed. While the latter sounds like nothing special, it is actually quite interesting as it shows the property and the area before it was landscaped by Kate Sessions as part of the 1916 Exposition. Also, unlike the Whaley House, the Marston House is not rumored to be haunted, although as always, if a visitor has interesting or unusual facts to report, I’ll be sure to share them here!