Who is George Marston?
George Marston: 1850-1946, a successful merchant who spent much of his personal fortune to make San Diego great, including creating Balboa Park and the public library system.
"I believe in a Greater San Diego—everything that makes for a bigger city. Let us build a great city on a good foundation. Let us have our industries as large as possible. Let us build a complete city."
- George Marston
Our school is named for George White Marston, one of the most important San Diegans of all time. He was a progressive politician, the owner of a popular department store and a philanthropist who gave his beloved city major parks and other great institutions. His dream was to make San Diego one of America's greatest cities.
Marston was a leader in the creation of Balboa Park, San Diego's Public Library System, Torrey Pines State Reserve, Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the Serra Museum along with Presidio Park.
He was born in 1850 in Wisconsin where he loved to ice skate on the many frozen rivers and lakes of his Midwestern home. His family moved West because of his father's poor health, and George the future millionaire started in business here as a lowly hotel clerk.
He entered the the mercantile business as a bookkeeper. and a clerk. The smart and ambitious Marston found a partner and took over the store. He was a man who read books and had big dreams.
He married a teacher named Anna Lee Gunn, whose uncle was editor of the city's newspaper, the San Diego Union. Together the couple had five children. Their beautiful house, the Marston House, built in the architecturally famous California Craftsman style is near Balboa Park and open to the public as a museum.
The Marston Company became the only major department store in San Diego, and he was known as a good boss and a businessman who invested in keeping his store nice and treating customers right. The store sat at 5th Avenue and C Street. Some 15 years after his death, his family sold it to the Broadway, a major department store chain that has since closed. As he gained wealth he traveled widely and when he saw major urban parks like New York's Central Park he invested his own money and connections to create such a haven for San Diego.
In addition to his many charity ventures he was active politically. He was elected to the San Diego City Council serving from 1887-1889. Marston ran for mayor unsuccessfully twice. One of his races became a classic political race between two different governing philosophies, which his opponent called the race between "Smokestacks versus Geraniums," His opponent nicknamed him Geranium George, and convinced voters that the very successful businessman Marston was anti-business. Marston lost to the candidate who proudly campaigned for Smokestacks.
Marston was known for his love of ice skating, and continued to skate even in his 90s.