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Guide to the George White Marston Civic Collection MS 35
MS 35  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Processing Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content
  • Comments
  • Separated Materials

  • Title: George White Marston Civic Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 35
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 2.5 Linear feet (5 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1768, 1886-1975
    Abstract: The collection contains materials documenting the civic activities of George White Marston.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Spanish.
    creator: Marston, George White, 1850-1946

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Lauren Rasmussen on October 3, 2012.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Preferred Citation

    George White Marston Civic Collection, MS 35, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    George White Marston (1850-1946) arrived in San Diego in 1870. After working as a hotel clerk at the Horton House, Marston joined the mercantile firm at A. Pauly and Sons in 1871. Then in 1872, he took a job clerking for storekeeper John Nash. Five years later, Marston partnered with Charles Hamilton and bought the business from Nash. The association with Hamilton lasted until 1878, when Marston opened a clothing store at 5th and D streets. The store continued to grow, and in 1912 was incorporated as the Marston Company, which served as San Diego’s premier department store.
    Marston was very active in numerous civic activities throughout San Diego. For over thirty years, Marston spearheaded the development of the San Diego waterfront and Civic Center with the cooperation of landscape architect John Nolen. Marston also acted as chairman of the Parks and Beaches Association, where he raised funds and donated his own money to create two state parks in Anza-Borrego and Torrey Pines. In 1873, he was secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, where he would later serve as president. In 1882, he joined the first board of trustees of the public library. That same year he founded the local YMCA, and served on the board for 62 years, 22 of which he acted as president.
    Marston ran for mayor twice, once in 1913 and again in 1917, and though he was popular, he was defeated in both elections. During the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, Marston was chairman of the Building & Grounds Committee, and acted as one of the commissioners of the California Building after the Exposition ended in 1916. He created Presidio Park in 1925, which he then donated to the City of San Diego along with the Serra Museum in 1937. In 1928, he founded the San Diego Historical Society and assisted in the restoration efforts of the Mission San Diego de Alcala. After a long, prolific life of civic service, Marston died in 1946 at age 96.


    Collection is arranged into nine series:
    Series I: John Nolen and the 'Nolen Plan'
    Series II: San Diego Civic Center and Other City Projects
    Series III: San Diego City Park (Balboa Park Pre-1915)
    Series IV: Balboa Park and the Expositions 1910-1936
    Series V: Presidio Park
    Series VI: Torrey Pines State Park
    Series VII: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
    Series VIII: San Diego County State Parks Commission and State-County Parks and Beaches Association
    Series IX: Other Civic Activities
    Items within each series are arranged by subject.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains correspondence, administrative papers, essays, maps, plans, and articles related to the civic activities of George Marston. These activities include Marston’s work with John Nolen, the development of Balboa Park and its use during both the 1915 and 1935 Expositions; the creation of Presidio Park, Torrey Pines State Park, and Anza-Borrego State Park; and Marston’s participation in both the State-County Parks and Beaches Association and the San Diego County State Parks Commission.
    The correspondence regarding Marston’s collaboration with John Nolen focuses on the development of the San Diego Civic Center and the San Diego waterfront, both of which were encompassed in Nolen’s larger plan for the City of San Diego. Other correspondence with various city planners is present.
    A large portion of the collection centers on the development and upkeep of San Diego County’s parks, including Balboa Park, Presidio Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Torrey Pines State Park parks. This includes correspondence, land deeds, and financial materials. The documents related to Balboa Park cover a lengthy period from before the 1915 Exposition through the 1935 Exposition, including the interim period. Correspondence related to Torrey Pines State Park focuses on discussion and opposition to the construction of Torrey Pines Road. Between 1928 and 1930, the League To Save Torrey Pines, including Marston, fought and won against a proposed cliff road above the beach. Of particular interest is a letter written to Marston by H.J. Hill of the Cuyamaca Club, berating Marston for his opposition to the Torrey Pines Road.
    Materials related to Marston’s mayoral campaigns and his involvement with the San Diego Historical Society, the Mission San Diego Alcala restoration, and the YMCA are also present.


    "Presidio Park Statement of George W. Marston 1942" (one item) added to collection from "Presidio San Diego" file in Document Files Collection.

    Separated Materials

    Maps previously separated to the SDHC Maps Collection:
    La Jolla Quadrangle Topographical Map;
    1931 Blackburn's map with San Diego County;
    Ramona Quadrangle Topographical Map;
    Map of Borego Desert Park;
    Indio Quadrangle Topographical Map;
    Blueprint Map Anza Desert Park;
    Borego Palms - Desert Park

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Allen, Frank Phillips, Jr.
    Allen, Russell C.
    Angier, Harold
    Broell, Percy C.
    California Pacific International Exposition (1935-1936 : San Diego, Calif.).
    Collier, David Charles
    Cornell, Ralph D.
    Crosby, W. W.
    Davidson, G. Aubrey
    Deering, Tam
    Drury, Newton Bishop
    Hewett, Edgar L. (Edgar Lee), 1865-1946
    Kettner, William
    Klauber, Melville
    M. Hall Company.
    Marston, George White, 1850-1946
    Marston, Mary Gilman
    Nolen, John, 1869-1937
    Olmsted Brothers.
    Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1870-1957
    Olmsted, John Charles, 1852-1920
    Panama-California Exposition (1915 : San Diego, Calif.).
    Parsons, Samuel, 1844-1923
    Presidio Hills Golf Club, Ltd..
    Samuel Parsons & Co..
    San Diego Chamber of Commerce.
    San Diego County State Parks Commission.
    Scripps, E. W. (Edward Willis), 1854-1926
    Sefton, Joseph W., 1882-1966
    Sessions, Kate Olivia, 1857-1940
    Sessions, Milton
    State-County Parks and Beaches Association.
    Union Title Insurance Company.
    United States. Works Progress Administration of California.
    Wangenheim, Julius
    YMCA of San Diego County.
    Anza (Calif.)
    Anza-Borrego Desert (Calif.)
    Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Calif.)
    Balboa Park (San Diego, Calif.)
    Borrego Springs (Calif.)
    City planning
    Civic centers
    Civic development
    La Jolla (San Diego, Calif.)
    Local elections
    Presidio Park
    San Diego (Calif.)
    Torrey Pines State Reserve (Calif.)