Marston House Museum and Gardens

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San Diego, CA
United States
Marston House Museum and Gardens

Nestled in the northwest corner of Balboa Park, this five-acre garden reflects a mixture of styles and influences. Originally laid out by George Cooke, the garden surrounds an Arts and Crafts-period home designed by William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill for the Marston family. Following his partner Samuel Parsons, Jr., Cooke initially arrived in San Diego on commission from George Marston to plan nearby City Park (now Balboa Park). Beginning in 1906, Cooke planted deodar cedars, Canary Island pines, and live oaks around a sweeping lawn originally planted with lippie grass that rolls down a hill south of the house. Horticulturist Kate Sessions, the “mother of Balboa Park,” advised on the original planting scheme. The Marstons added a hot house, a rose arbor, and a perimeter brick wall in the north garden, as well as sinuous cobble pathways that snake down the sloped eastern section of the property under a canopy of pine, eucalyptus, and oak trees. Landscape architect John Nolen, who created San Diego’s first urban plan, requested a young Thomas Church to draw up initial plans for an update to the garden in the late 1920s. Whether Church’s conceptual plan was subsequently followed is unclear. By 1928 Nolen’s associate Hale Walker took over the project and, with influence from the family, designed the northern garden with colorful flower beds, a tile-decorated tea house adjacent to a green, a wall fountain, and a belvedere that overlooks the densely vegetated canyon below. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and gifted to the City of San Diego in 1987.