By JILL DIAMOND | Uptown News
There is no question that historic homes like the Marston House Museum & Gardens in Bankers Hill are mesmerizing, as they draw you in and transport you to a different time and place. If you haven’t visited this property, you might want to think about taking a trip to an architectural marvel.
“It is fascinating to learn about the people who came before us, and realize how similar
we are, even though the issues of the time were different,” said Sarai Johnson, historian for the Marston House Museum & Gardens. “I was awestruck the first time I saw the house. The house is very large at 8,500 square feet, and the innovative building systems are so clever. The question comes to mind: why don’t they build houses like this anymore?
“Over the years, I am still impressed by the details, the style of the house, and how advanced it was, even for today’s standard of living. I’ve been involved with the house for over 20 years and still find new things to learn from the details, construction technologies, and building systems.”
The house located at 3525 Seventh Ave., San Diego, was donated to the city of San Diego in 1988. Save Our Heritage Organisation has been operating the site since 2009 and thousands of people visit every year, she said.
One of California’s most exciting examples of the Arts and Crafts movement is the Marston House Museum & Gardens constructed in 1905 for George W. Marston and his wife, Anna Gunn Marston.
According to its website, George Marston is known for numerous accomplishments however, “most prominently as a civic leader whose interest and work in historic preservation, conservation and history are well known.”
The home was designed and built by the internationally renowned architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill. It sits on 5 acres complete with lush lawns, manicured formal gardens, and rustic canyon gardens, the website adds.
This is a place where you can spend hours roaming inside and out while learning about one of San Diego’s most prominent families, its master architects and landscape designers who worked with the family to create one of the region’s most important estates, the website adds.
And while the home has maintained its charm all these years, it has been renovated, Johnson said: “The Marston family lived in the house from 1905 to 1987, before it became a museum, so
there are relatively few changes that have occurred over the years. The house has had several
minor modifications since it was built in 1905.”
For example, a sleeping porch was added, for healthy living, within a year of the house being built. A few years later the living room windows were enlarged and new access was added from the terrace to the gardens. In the 1920s, tile was added to the kitchen counter and in the 1940s, a large window was added to the dining room.
While it may be a museum, the original owners do have family still alive who visit the property, she said.
“Marston family members frequently visit the house and have been very generous with sharing information, photos, and family items. Save Our Heritage Organisation is honored that the Marston family continues to be involved with the house. There are now eight generations since the original family members lived in the house,” Johnson said.
Once inside, the first floor has the library, music room, living room, and dining room that were used by the family and their guests. Also, on the first floor are the service areas, such as the butler pantry, kitchen, cool pantry, mudroom and the sewing room. Since the family owned The Marston Co., the premier department store in the San Diego area, weekly fittings with a tailor in the sewing room were important for the family to model the latest fashions and accessories, Johnson said.
The second floor has the family’s private space, with six bedrooms, four bathrooms, a trunk room and lots of closets. The Marston Legacy: Progress and the Preservation exhibit includes information about the Marston family and the department store. Information from the Irving J. Gill exhibit is on display including a room with rare Irving Gill-designed furniture. Staff favorites include the displays of kitchen implements, Bauer Pottery, and plein air paintings.
What does Johnson think the owners would say if they saw their former home today?
“If the Marston family saw the house today, they would definitely appreciate that the house and gardens are available for the public to enjoy, just as they intended.”
For more info, visit the website at SOHOsandiego.org.
— Jill Diamond is a local freelance writer with a penchant for history.