Balboa Desert & Rose Garden
Hours: Open Year Round Friday-Monday · 10am-5pm
Price to tour the house: $15 for 40-45 minute tour. House Tours start every half hour.
Self-guided tour of garden: free
Please note: The last tour of the day begins at 4pm. The Marston House is closed during Pride Festival each year, which is mid July. Please call or check local calendars before planning your visit to the Marston House.
Who is George Marston?
In 1870 at the young age of 20, George Marston arrived in San Diego where he worked as a clerk at the Horton Grand hotel. Starting in 1872, he clerked for storekeeper Joseph Nash for five years before he and a partner Charles Hamilton bought out Nash for $10,000. In 1873 he was secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and later its president.
George married school teacher Anna Gunn and had 5 children together. The Marston Company ultimately became San Diego’s leading department store. It not only provided him wealth, but it led to buying trips to San Francisco and New York, and experiences there built his interest in park development and urban planning — the two areas in which he made his greatest contributions to San Diego.
In 1882, Marston served on the first board of trustees of the public library, and largely helped in the founding of the YMCA in San Diego. In 1887-1889, he served on the San Diego city council. He ran for mayor of San Diego in 1913 and 1917 and lost both times after critics somewhat unfairly depected him as a man more interested in beauty than growth of business.
In 1902 Marston donated $10,000 to help the Park Commission hire Samuel Parsons, landscape architect for the City of New York, to prepare the first comprehensive plan for Balboa Park. He also He raised funds and donated his own money to help start what are now Torrey Pines and Anza-Borrego Desert State Parks. This was a good man.
The Marston House was constructed in 1905 and was designed and built by the internationally renowned architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill. Surrounded by five acres of rolling lawns, manicured formal gardens, and rustic canyon gardens, this 8,500 square-foot home became a house museum in 1987 after the Marston family gifted it to the City of San Diego for the enjoyment of the public.
Personal Experience: I have not actually toured the house although I love visiting the garden when I am near Balboa Park, which is free to explore. This area is great for taking photos and relaxing. What is inside that house will remain a mystery until I am willing to pay the $15 to go in.
There’s a trail at the base of the garden you can take: