Marston House

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3525 7th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
|
Open:
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Saturday & Sunday)
Closed Monday thur Friday
Spend a relaxing day exploring the grounds of the historic Marston House for a glimpse into San Diego’s finest examples of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Marston House
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Take a Step Back Through Time at the Marston House

Desk in the Study, Where George Marston Worked at the Marston HouseBenches in Front of the Marston House

People often tout The Marston House as "one of California's finest examples of the Arts and Crafts movement," and that might even be an understatement!

I really think the home is warm and inviting. The grounds are spacious and beautiful. The architecture is stunning. And the meticulous craftsmanship is very impressive.

View of the Marston House from One of Balboa Parks Lawn
View of the Marston House from One of Balboa Parks Lawn

Craftsman Masterpiece

Constructed in 1905, Irving Gill’s and William Sterling Hebbard’s design for the home combined the English Cottage Style with the modern, Prairie Style of architecture, and plenty of detailed redwood interiors.

In fact, in an incredible feat, the Marston House and its grounds continue to be one of the few Hebbard & Gill homes still in near original condition.

The Main Living Room at the Marston House
The Main Living Room at the Marston House

Step Back in Time at the Marston Museum

This fusion of old world charm and new world innovation is quintessentially California, and in true Southern California hospitality, became a public museum in 1987. The museum is open for tours daily, year-round, for a small fee, with the garden and perimeter of the grounds free to all.

The tour runs approximately 45 minutes. With its location outside of the more popular central Balboa Park area, you’re almost guaranteed a small, intimate tour group and visit.

My experience is that it’s possible to feel like it’s just you and the home.

Local Tips
Explore The Outdoor Areas
Make sure to explore its lush gardens and outdoor spaces as much as the interior. The gardens surrounding the house are not only beautiful but also provide insight into the historic landscaping trends of the early 20th century.

What to Expect at the House Museum & Gardens

Marston Department Store at the Marston House
Marston Department Store at the Marston House

Picturesque Views and Inviting Spaces

Guests to the museum can expect to be dazzled as soon as they enter the home or the grounds of the property. Irving Gill signature design, all front doors open directly to glass doors leading out to a terrace, ensuring a guest never walks into a darkened room.

Honestly, is there anything more wonderful than strolling across a garden, peering into inviting rooms, and pretending for one small moment that you’re the owner of an exquisite home nestled upon a hill at the head of Park canyon?

Old Outdoor Oven next to the Marston House
Old Outdoor Oven next to the Marston House

A Home of Historical Distinction

The 8,500-square-foot home boasts 5 acres of picture-perfect rolling lawns, manicured gardens, and rustic canyons. Designed and constructed by Hebbard and Gill for George W. Marston and his wife, Anna, the Marston home quickly gained attention.

In fact, a paper described the plans for construction as: “…when completed, Mr. Marston will have one of the most beautiful homes and grounds in Southern California.” Which couldn’t be more on the nose.

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Exhibits at the Marston House

Guests tour the home with a knowledgeable docent who guides them through exquisite wood paneled rooms, artifacts directly from Marston’s life, and a glimpse into the life of one of San Diego’s most prominent families.

Upstairs Room All About the Marston House
Upstairs Room All About the Marston House

The Marston Legacy: Progress and Preservation Exhibit

This permanent exhibit, presented by the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO), highlights the contributions made by George W. Marston and his family.

Affectionately referred to as “San Diego’s First Citizen,” Marston’s forward thinking helped catapult many of today’s beloved San Diego locations, including the public library and the San Diego YMCA.

The exhibit showcases his contributions to the city, from his commission to restore the San Diego Mission De Alcalá to how he helped develop Balboa Park into the landmark it is today.

The exhibit also highlights the contributions made by his wife, Anna, their children, and grandchildren to preserve historic and natural space and create space for social and economic opportunities.

Available Tours of the Property

Docent Giving Tour at the Marston House
Docent Giving Tour at the Marston House

Tours through the Marston home run daily, though still in small numbers as part of the museums’ continued mission for the health and safety of all guests.

Additional tours are available every third Sunday of the month for a greater, in-depth look into the home, the grounds, and the architects themselves.

Trail next to the Marston House
Trail next to the Marston House

Bankers Hill Walking Tour

The Bankers Hill Walking Tour is a 90-minute tour goes deeper into Irving Gill’s vision for modern architecture and will bring guests down the sloped Bankers Hill and to Albatross Street to see the largest concentration of Gill homes built anywhere in the world.

With views of the San Diego Bay, canyons, and Gill’s collection of cubist flat roofs and arches, it is a must-do for lovers of historic architecture.

Gardens at the Marston House
Gardens at the Marston House

Marston House Garden Tour

If the tour above is for fans of architecture, then the Marston House Garden Tour is for those who love gardens. This seasonal tour is only available from March to October, but it guides guests through the English Romantic and Arts & Crafts period landscape designs.

Learn more about the 1st plantings of the garden, plus how landscape architects Samuel Parsons, Jr. and George Cook evolved the garden from its original 1905 style to the introduction of the formal manicured garden in 1928.

The Marston Shopping Experience Information Poster at the Marston House
The Marston Shopping Experience Information Poster at the Marston House

Seventh Avenue Walking Tour: A Progressive Vision

The Seventh Avenue Walking Tour is a 60-minute tour begins at Marston House and takes guests to the Seventh Avenue cul-de-sac for an intimate tour based on SOHO’s Irving Gill: Progress & Poetry in Architecture.

See Gill’s style evolution from the classical English Arts & Crafts to the horizontal Prairie Style to his cubist Early Modernism.

This tour also goes further in depth into both Marston’s and Gill’s roles as progressive visionary leaders.

Dining Room at the Marston House
Dining Room at the Marston House

The Marston House: Architectural Details of Master Architects Hebbard & Gill

The The Marston House: Architectural Details of Master Architects Hebbard & Gill is another expertly curated tour by SOHO, this 90-minute tour goes deeper into Irving Gill’s contributions in the English Arts & Crafts style as it takes guests through the home and formal gardens.

Guests can expect to get greater insight into Gill’s architectural and construction plan through actual period materials. A rare look into the Marston family’s public and private lives.

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Know Before You Go

Here’s a few tips to make sure your visit is a success.

Entrance to the Marston House Property
Entrance to the Marston House Property

Who Will Enjoy the Marston House Museum and Gardens the Most?

While there’s nothing in either the museum or the gardens that could be categorized as unsuitable for children, some small children may find it difficult to keep still during the tour and quiet moments through the home.

We agree with many guests who categorize this museum as perfect for couples, however, use your best judgment when planning an outing with the whole family. After all, you know your family best!

Directions & Parking

The Marston House Museum & Gardens is located at 3525 Seventh Ave., San Diego, California 92103.

There are 2 handicapped spaces available at the front of the gift shop. The museum recommends guests safely escort any elderly or disabled guests into the gift shop ahead of searching for a parking space.

There is ample free parking all along Balboa Drive, Sixth Avenue, Upas and Thorn Streets. However, we recommend giving yourself time to find parking in the neighborhood as there is no designated lot.

Guests can find public bathrooms near the playground on Balboa Drive at Thorn Street.

Gift Shop at the Marston House
Gift Shop at the Marston House

The Marston House Museum Shop | A Must Stop for Garden & Preservation Enthusiasts

As the saying goes, no visit is complete without an exit through the giftshop. The Marston House Museum Shop, however, may be a little different than what you’d expect.

SOHO’s dedication to preservation continues through the entire museum grounds, and this is ever present in their shop.

Guests can find art from local artists, historic Arts and Crafts style tiles and pottery, plus gifts for both the home and garden. There’s something here to please even that one person on your list that’s notoriously difficult to shop for.

Trail to Balboa Park Behind the Marston House
Trail to Balboa Park Behind the Marston House

Gardens & Paths

There is no entrance fee to enjoy the Marston gardens. Be sure to explore the grounds and revel in both the formal garden and canyon pathways that add to the home’s charm.

Spend time under the cool shade of the oak and pine trees. Marvel at the bluffs and then pretend you’re the owner of this lovely home for a minute or two. Your secret is safe with us.

Marstons Family Members Photos
Marstons Family Members Photos

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