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Seeking a Marvelous Marston Collection
May/June 2017
By Ann Jarmusch

If you've visited the Marston House Museum recently, you may recall seeing a delightful showcase of Marston family and Marston department store items on display in the first-floor sewing room. Although the museum is temporarily closed until July 1, SOHO is at work expanding this small "reliquary" with the goal of creating a large permanent exhibition on the life and times of the Marston family for the second-floor exhibition rooms.

Building a permanent Marston collection is a big undertaking for SOHO and the Marston House Museum & Gardens, which attracts thousands of visitors annually from California and beyond, is the perfect venue. But we need your help in sharing your Marston treasures and your memories with the public.

Our permanent exhibition will highlight the Marston family's progressive acts, achievements and legacy. George W. Marston, the patriarch of this remarkable family, helped shape San Diego as we know it today by fostering the creation of Balboa Park and the two expositions held there. He also had the foresight to create Presidio Park (and its Serra Museum) and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We will emphasize why Marston is known as one of San Diego's earliest, most prominent preservationists of landmarks and historic places, as well as a lifelong supporter of the arts, architecture, and landscape design. This story continues to this day thanks to his generous, civic-minded descendants.

We're collecting tangible items and your memories and anecdotes about Marston family members and the Marston House & Gardens. We are accepting donations now in support of the exhibition and an accompanying publication.

We'd like to know about any experiences or exchanges you've had with Marston family members over the years. Perhaps you were one of Miss Mary Marston's neighbors on Seventh Avenue, attended school or college with her or one of her siblings, or served on a board with the late Hamilton Marston, who continued his family's civic involvement for decades.

Do you own or know of owners of memorabilia, ephemera or correspondence about the Marston family members?

How about items purchased at Marston's department store? At the flagship downtown store and later at car-friendly, suburban-style stores at Grossmont/La Mesa and Chula Vista, Marston's carried everything from silver and linens to televisions and notions to hats and clothing for all ages, including shoes and furs that are now collector's items.

Any of Marston's millions of merchandise items may have been handed down through families or sold on eBay or at antiques shops. SOHO welcomes your donations now of clothing, goods, memorabilia, menus, bills of sale and so on. We can also use cash contributions for purchases as we scour the landscape for all things Marston.

If you need to jog your memory or just want to know more, visit the digital Marston's museum with a floor-by-floor list of departments and viewer comments HERE.

SOHO is also looking for ephemera and any items with store logo and graphics, which appear on hat boxes, shopping bags, dress boxes and the like. You may have been pleasantly surprised to see vintage Marston's hat boxes in the Marston House Museum bedroom closets.

In addition to merchandise and artifacts, we want to preserve your memories of shopping, lunching, or working at Marston's. Perhaps you patronized the Picnic Shop and thoughtfully picked up some toys on the same lower street floor, or had your hair done in the beauty parlor, then showed off your new coif just steps away in the Place Pigalle Coffee Shop. Downtown's top-floor tea room was a popular dining and socializing spot, as were the Orange Tree Dining Rooms in the other two stores.

Please send your truly priceless memories and anecdotes to SOHO at 2476 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, CA 92110 or email them to with Marston Collection in the subject line. If you'd prefer to speak with someone about your memories or possible donations, please call (619) 297-9327 and a member of the curatorial team will get back with you.

Donate funds to the Marston House Permanent Exhibition Fund.

We hope you'll be as excited about this ongoing project as we are! Thank you for your help in building this important collection and repository of personal anecdotes. The Marston family deserves this recognition, which will be richly portrayed in social, economic and historical context, and you can be part of it.






2476 San Diego Avenue · San Diego CA 92110 · Phone (619) 297-9327
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