Tour of the Marston House Museum in Balboa Park.

An extraordinary house is located at the northwest corner of Balboa Park. It is one of the most architecturally and historically important structures in San Diego.

The George Marston House Museum and Gardens preserves the home that was built by San Diego civic leader George Marston in 1905. The 8,500 square foot house is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts style architecture in California, designed by internationally famous architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill.

Guided tours of the house are offered by the Save Our Heritage Organization. Learn more here. You can purchase tickets in the fine museum gift shop, which occupies the nearby carriage house. If you simply want to stroll about the beautiful garden, or walk around the perimeter of the house, that’s free.

I went on the tour recently and took a few photos, where the indoor lighting permitted.

The George Marston house is the sort of place that feels like a true home. The rooms are warm and functional and contain many windows, some of which were enlarged during the history of the house to bring in even more outdoor light. Book shelves and storage nooks are built into the walls, allowing an active family ample room to move about and entertain guests. Although the layout of the house is entirely practical, every room and hallway is tastefully designed and furnished.

George Marston, a very successful businessman of his day, employed numerous servants. During the tour, we saw various devices that would summon them, including a wooden box mounted on a wall with a bell and mechanical pointers, and a concealed button under the dining room rug that the family could touch without their guests noticing.

The tour explores nearly all of the historic home. At the tour’s end visitors can peer into glass display cases filled with artifacts and ephemera from George Marston’s famous department store, which was located in downtown San Diego.

I highly recommend going on this tour!

Because the Marston House Museum and Gardens is not located in the central, most popular part of Balboa Park, it’s likely your tour group will be small and relaxed, and you’ll be able to ask many questions.

View of the distinctive Marston House from its rose-filled formal garden, a popular wedding venue.
Photo from the Marston House driveway near the front entrance.
Sign describes George Marston. San Diego’s Renaissance Man. He was a successful merchant, civic leader, parks and neighborhoods builder, museum and institutions founder, historic preservationist and conservationist, a city statesman, creator of great schools, and an activist for arts, culture and social issues…

You can learn more about George White Marston here.

In the past I’ve photographed various things related to Marston, from his statue at Sefton Plaza in Balboa Park, to his gravestone at Mount Hope Cemetery.

Architectural drawing for the George W. Marston residence.
When first built in 1905, no landscaping could be seen around the George Marston house! Today the surrounding area is lush, with many nearby homes. Some neighboring houses were also designed by Irving Gill for Marston’s friends and extended family. SOHO offers a walking tour of the neighborhood.
Looking out at the formal garden from a second floor window.
George Marston’s stores in San Diego kept growing. Over the years, he operated at five different locations, and ended up building the large, famous 1912 department store on the north side of C Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets.
At the end of the tour we could look at artifacts and photographs recalling Marston’s elegant department store, where many fond memories were created.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

4 thoughts on “Tour of the Marston House Museum in Balboa Park.”

  1. When I stayed in San Diego for a few years I also toured this house and posted about it. Unfortunately the tour guide we had stuck to his script so when I asked questions, he wouldn’t answer and just kept up with his spiel. It is a beautiful house and the surrounding area is so beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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