George White Marston (1850-1946) Anna Gunn Marston (1853-1940)
The George White and Anna Gunn Marston House is an important symbol of San Diego history. It was the home of George W. Marston, a successful businessman and important community leader, who still serves as a meaningful role model for San Diego today. Marston’s department store, once the city’s largest and most prestigious, is now remembered by only a few. Yet, Marston as the founder of the San Diego Historical Society, creator of Presidio Park and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and sponsor of the town’s first professional city plan is remembered by many. George Marston exemplified the kind of civic leader who used his business success, wealth, and talent to benefit the entire community. Though he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the famous “Smokestacks vs. Geraniums” campaign of 1917, he introduced the idea of balancing environmental concerns with urban growth and development. These vital issues have remained at the heart of San Diego politics and planning ever since.
Architecturally, the Marston House is significant as an early and important work of San Diegan Irving J. Gill, one of the most prominent architects of the early twentieth century. An early example of the Craftsman style, the house reflects both Marston’s and Gill’s commitment to newer, more innovative design. Within a few years the style and design concepts—simplicity, beauty, and efficiency—embodied in the Marston House became widely accepted and could be found in houses of all sizes and prices.
The San Diego Historical Society is furnishing the house to reflect the taste and style of the period 1905-1925, utilizing the artifacts of the Craftsman period then popular in San Diego. This was a period of tremendous change and the house and its furnishings were very different from the more ornate and cluttered Victorian style of the 1880s and 1890s.
George W. Marston and Irving J. Gill were both men who respected the past and its traditions but who were also oriented to the future. The San Diego Historical Society, in preserving the Marston House, hopes to communicate to present and future generations the story of this important time in San Diego’s history and the role of these two men in it.
James M. Vaughan