MS 35 George White Marston Civic Collection

Summary Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection
Marston, George White, 1850-1946
George White Marston Civic Collection
MS 35
Date [inclusive]
1768, 1886-1975
2.5 Linear feet (5 boxes)
Language of Materials
Collection materials are in English and Spanish.
The collection contains materials documenting the civic activities of George White Marston.

Preferred Citation

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection October 3, 2012

1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101

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.

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.

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Related Materials

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

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • California Pacific International Exposition (1935-1936 : San Diego, Calif.).
  • M. Hall Company.
  • Olmsted Brothers.
  • Panama-California Exposition (1915 : San Diego, Calif.).
  • Presidio Hills Golf Club, Ltd..
  • Samuel Parsons & Co..
  • San Diego Chamber of Commerce.
  • San Diego County State Parks Commission.
  • State-County Parks and Beaches Association.
  • Union Title Insurance Company.
  • United States. Works Progress Administration of California.
  • YMCA of San Diego County.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Anza (Calif.)
  • Anza-Borrego Desert (Calif.)
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Calif.)
  • Balboa Park (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Borrego Springs (Calif.)
  • La Jolla (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Presidio Park
  • San Diego (Calif.)
  • Torrey Pines State Reserve (Calif.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Allen, Frank Phillips, Jr.
  • Allen, Russell C.
  • Angier, Harold
  • Broell, Percy C.
  • 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
  • Marston, George White, 1850-1946
  • Marston, Mary Gilman
  • Nolen, John, 1869-1937
  • Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1870-1957
  • Olmsted, John Charles, 1852-1920
  • Parsons, Samuel, 1844-1923
  • Scripps, E. W. (Edward Willis), 1854-1926
  • Sefton, Joseph W., 1882-1966
  • Sessions, Kate Olivia, 1857-1940
  • Sessions, Milton
  • Wangenheim, Julius


  • Benefactors
  • City planning
  • Civic centers
  • Civic development
  • Local elections

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

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Collection Inventory

 Series I: John Nolen and the ‘Nolen Plan’

The Nolen Plan, 1924-1936


“John Nolen’s Proposal Water Front Portal Entrance to San Diego” (pamphlet), undated

City Plan for San Diego, 1926

John Nolen correspondence, 1907 June 3-1910 September 22

Scope and Content: Subjects include general improvements to San Diego as a whole, Nolen offering his services, Marston accepting his services (on behalf of the City Improvement Committee), discussion of printing the report as the book ‘The Improvement of San Diego’, Presidio Park development.

John Nolen correspondence, 1920 May 18-1924 May 19

Scope and Content: Subjects include details of overall San Diego plan, Civic Center/waterfront headway, plans for Roseville Yacht Harbor, and billing for conference travels.

John Nolen correspondence, 1924 June 10-December 23

Scope and Content: Subjects include city planning appropriation for projects, billing for Nolen’s travel, Marston’s Presidio Hills development, Civic Center planning, reports on city planning, and Marston’s private garden.

John Nolen correspondence, 1925 January 14-1926 October 27

Scope and Content: Subjects include Balboa Park development, Presidio Hills Memorial Park, public parks planning.

John Nolen correspondence, 1927 January 11-December 27

Scope and Content: Subjects include Civic Center/waterfront development, Presidio Hills, conference travel, billing.

John Nolen correspondence, 1928 January 10-1929 October 26

Scope and Content: Subjects include San Diego City zoning, the San Diego Civic Association, Presidio Hills Park development.

John Nolen correspondence, 1929 November 8-1935 May 7

Scope and Content: Subjects include Nolen’s travel, expense accounts, Park and Planning Commissions, city parks planning, waterfront development.

John Nolen papers, 1926-1933 and undated


John Nolen’s curriculum vitae pamphlet, undated

Marston’s recommendation of Nolan to the Tennessee Valley Authority, July 7, 1933

Nolen’s essay, “State Planning,” undated


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 Series II: San Diego Civic Center and Other City Projects

Correspondence from city planners, 1907 June 10-1921 April 12 1:10
City waterfront improvements, 1911 November 27-1927 August 1


Map of San Diego Bay, 1936

City Civic Center planning, 1909 April 2-1938 May 16


“Tentative Proposal for Civic Center on the Waterfront , San Diego, California, and its Relation to the City Plan,” May 27, 1927

‘Radial Plan for Civic Center’ diagrams, April and August, 1936

State of California Department of Public Works Division of Highways blueprint, “Sketch of Proposed Office Site – Dist. XI” (proposed Civic Center site) (in F4D1)

Civic Center election, 1933-1935 and undated


“Special Consolidated State and County Election” sample ballot, 1935 (in F4D1)

Results of election on City-Bounty Building bonds, April 23, 1935 (in F4D1)

Civic Center federal funding, 1934 February 26-1936 August 1 and undated 1:14
Civic Center newspaper and magazine articles, 1930 October-1941 April and undated 1:15
Civic Center miscellanea, 1938 July 16 and undated


Invitation to the San Diego reception of President Franklin Roosevelt, July 16, 1938

Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive improvements, 1939-1943 and undated


“Points for Consideration,” report by the Pacific Highway Committee

Essay, “Pacific Highway” by George Marston, 1939

Pacific Highway Committee correspondence


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 Series III: San Diego City Park (Balboa Park Pre-1915)

Balboa Park legal background, 1902 February 24- 1924 April 27 and undated


“Ordinance No. 1096” granting Kate Sessions use of portions of “City Park” for tree and plant cultivation, February 24, 1902

Balboa Park planners correspondence, 1901 October 10-1902 October 25


Correspondence of city planners and Kate Sessions regarding development of Balboa Park

Park Plans and Improvement Committee meeting minutes and secretary reports, 1903 January 6-May 25 1:20
Park Plans and Improvement Committee meeting minutes and secretary reports, 1903 June 3-September 30 1:21
Park Plans and Improvement Committee meeting minutes and secretary reports, 1903 October 1-1905 February 25 2:1
Park Improvement Committee correspondence, 1903 January 5-1904 August 27 2:2
Park Improvement Committee finances, 1902 September 27-1905 July 17 and undated


Park Improvement Financial Committee report, July 9, 1903

Park Improvement Committee bank account booklet, September 27, 1902–May 13, 1905

Park Improvement Committee invoices and purchase orders, 1904 January 13-1905 May 4 2:4
Balboa Park development reports, 1904 February 11-1909 March 29 and undated


Report by landscape architect George Cooke, February 11, 1904

Report by the Board of Park Commissioners to the San Diego City Auditor, January 1, 1907

Marston Hills and Marston Point development, 1924 June 19-November 26 2:6
Balboa Park newspaper articles, 1889 February 6-1911 June 20 2:7

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 Series IV: Balboa Park and the Expositions 1910-1936

1915 Panama-California Exposition correspondence, 1910 October 31-1916 December 18


Exchanges between the Olmsted Brothers and the Park Buildings and Grounds Committee in which the Olmsted Brothers express concern about locating the Exposition in the heart of Balboa Park

Telegram conveying resignation of the Olmsted Brothers, September 1, 1911

1915 Panama-California Exposition promotions, 1915 and undated 2:9
1915 Panama-California Exposition newspaper articles, 1914 November 29-1916 December 30 and undated 2:10
Balboa Park usage, post-1915 Exposition, 1917 February 2-1933 June 29 2:11
Nolen’s Balboa Park “general plan,” 1926 November-1927 January


“Balboa Park, San Diego – Report to Accompany Preliminary General Plan” by John Nolen, 1926

Proposed Balboa Park “general plan” map, 1927

“Report to Accompany Final General Plan – Balboa Park, San Diego” by John Nolen, 1927

California Building correspondence, 1919 April 23-1920 March 22 and undated

Scope and Content: Correspondence related to the ongoing use of the California Building as the home of the San Diego Museum.

California Building correspondence, 1920 April 2-1929 February 18

Scope and Content: Correspondence related to the ongoing use of the California Building as the home of the San Diego Museum.

1935 California Pacific International Exposition, 1935 March 14-1936 March 2 and undated


Invitation to George Marston’s daughter, Mary, to join the California Pacific International Exposition Women’s Executive Committee, March 14, 1935

Balboa Park newspaper articles, 1921 February 18-1968 May 26 2:16
Balboa Park magazine articles, 1925 June-1970 July 2:17

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 Series V: Presidio Park

Presidio Park history, 1929-1950 and undated


“Presidio Park Statement of George W. Marston 1942,” signed by Marston, June 19, 1942

Ralph D. Cornell’s essay, “Presidio Park: Atop a Buried City,” undated

Fort Stockton, Old Mission property, 1910 June 4-1914 April 4 2:19
Land purchases, 1923 April 11-1937 September 10 2:20
Land purchases, 1937 December 21-1943 July 8


Resolution No. 66988 dedicating Presidio Park to the “scenic possessions” of San Diego “to be held forever,” December 21, 1937

Presidio Park deeds, 1910 April 7-1940 June 6 and undated 3:1
Presidio Park lawsuits, 1934 3:2
Presidio Park donation to city and upkeep, 1927 May 2-1937 December 30 and undated


Ordinance No. 1297 dedicating the Presidio Park territory to the City of San Diego as a public park, undated

Presidio Park upkeep, 1937 December 21-1946 January 21 3:4
Presidio Park labor projects, 1934 December 1-1939 December 31 and undated


“Report of Financial Standing Beginning March 10th, 1939 to and including July 25th, 1939” (in F4D1)

“Report of Financial Standing Beginning May 13th, 1939 to and including March 9th, 1939” (in F4D1)

Presidio Park construction costs, 1907 June-1936 November


Works Progress Administration agreement for project at Presidio Park, August 8, 1935

Presidio Park development costs, 1930-1941


“Presidio Park Development” accounts, 1930-1936 (in F4D1)

Presidio Park landscaping, 1927 December 5-1929 February 1 3:8
Presidio Park landscaping, 1929 February 2-1930 December 1 and undated


“Broell’s Map of Planted Areas,” undated (in F4D1)

Receipts from Kate Sessions and Milton Sessions for plants

Presidio Park improvements, 1933 April-1965 June and undated


Map of proposed Presidio Park expansion, February 15, 1940 (in F4D1)

Inspection tour report, 1936 May 28 3:11
Ralph D. Cornell correspondence, 1940 June 27-1941 February 26 3:12
Presidio Park maps, pictures, and blueprints, 1914-1937 and undated


Hand-drawn Presidio Park street map on tracing paper, May 16, 1914 (in F4D1)

Map, “Presidio Hill Park, San Diego, California, Prepared for George W. Marston,” circa 1927 (in F4D1)

“Plan for lookout” drawing on onion skin prepared by Percy Broell, undated (in F4D1)

“Upper floor plan” drawing on tracing paper, undated (in F4D1)

“Proposed Overlook – Presidio Hill” elevations blueprint by John Nolen, April 1935 (in F4D1)

“View from the South East – Proposed Overlook Building in Presidio Hill” blueprint by John Nolen, March 1935 (in F4D1)

“S.D.E.Ry. Co. Old Town Extension, R. of W. Map from Concordia & Jefferson Streets to Twiggs & Couts Sts. in Old Town,” undated (in F4D1)

Presidio Hills golf course, 1931 September 1-1936 January 11 3:14
Presidio Park newspaper articles, 1926 February-1970 August and undated 3:15
Presidio Park miscellanea, 1768, 1924-1967 and undated


Page from Father Junipero Serra’s diary, 1768 (three copies in Spanish; one typed transcription in English)

Program for dedication ceremony of Serra Palm, September 2, 1950

Junipero Serra Museum 198th birthday invitation, July 15, 1967


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 Series VI: Torrey Pines State Park

Correspondence, 1923 May 2-1934 October 29 and undated 3:17
Resolutions and reports, 1922 April 3-1930 June 19 and undated 4:2
Newspaper and magazine articles, 1922 July-1964 July and undated 4:3
Miscellanea, 1930-1975 and undated


Marston’s written statement regarding his stance throughout the “Torrey Pines controversy,” April 22, 1930

Court case L.A. Civil No. 12499, Olmsted vs. City of San Diego, undated

Torrey Pines Association map of Torrey Pines Park, December 26, 1975 (in F4D1)


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 Series VII: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

History, 1957 March 4:5
Lands held in trust, 1932 February 4-September 12 4:6
Land deeds, 1933 October-1934 January 4:7
Administrative records, 1929 April 1-1937 February 17 and undated


Financial statements

“Appraisal Report on 11,200 Acres of Land in the Upper Slopes of the Borrego Valley,” January 18, 1932

“Plan of Tam Deering” for Anza-Borrego State Park, July 9, 1933

Col. W.W. Crosby’s report to the San Diego City Council, January 28, 1937

Map of Borrego Valley illustrating acreage of Anza-Borrego State Park, undated (in F4D1)

Correspondence, 1932 January 15-June 22 4:9
Correspondence, 1932 July 5-December 28 4:10
Correspondence, 1933 January 3-February 21 4:11
Correspondence, 1933 February 22-May 26 4:12
Correspondence, 1933 June 7-December 29 4:13
Correspondence, 1934 January 4-February 19 4:14
Legislation, 1933 February 1-1936 June 5 4:15
Ephemera, 1928 March-1933 April and undated 5:1
Newspaper articles, 1932 January 22-1945 July 19 and undated 5:2

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 Series VIII: San Diego County State Parks Commission and State-County Parks and Beaches Association

San Diego County State Park Commission, 1928 March 20-1932 October 5 and undated 5:3
State-County Parks and Beaches Association, 1930 January-1934 January 5:4
State-County Parks and Beaches Association: finances, 1931 May 16-1932 September 14 5:5
State-County Parks and Beaches Association: newspaper articles, 1931 March 9-August 27 5:6

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 Series IX: Other Civic Activities

San Diego Historical Society correspondence, 1928 December 15-1946 January 9 and undated 5:7
Marston’s mayoral campaigns (1913 and 1917), 1913 March 1-1917 April 4 and undated


Statement of endorsement from the San Diego Pioneer Society, undated

1913 mayoral campaign newspaper articles, 1913 March 20-April 9 and undated


Article announcing Marston’s defeat, April 9, 1913

1917 mayoral campaign newspaper articles, 1917 March 3-28 5:10
1917 Mayoral campaign newspaper articles, 1917 March 29-April 30 and undated


Article announcing Marston’s defeat, March 4, 1917

Mission San Diego de Alcala restoration, 1919 April 12-1941 March 7 and undated 5:12
Mission San Diego de Alcala newspaper and magazine articles, 1916 June 6-1952 May 25 and undated 5:13
Alonzo Horton memorial, 1908 December 24-1940 July 23 and undated 5:14
Y.M.C.A., 1886 November 3-1947 March 16 and undated


Y.M.C.A. by-laws and constitution, undated

Certificate of appreciation from the Y.M.C.A. to Marston, April 13, 1920 (in Oversize Collections D__)


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