San Diego Historical Society cutting loose Marston House, Villa Montezuma

Villa Montezuma - photo courtesy of San Diego Historical Society

Villa Montezuma - photo courtesy of San Diego Historical Society

The San Diego Historical Society recently announced it can no longer maintain two historic properties, the Marston House and Villa Montezuma.

The Marston House, built in 1906 by city father George Marston, was closed to the public last Sunday, February 15. It’s especially ironic that the SDHS will no longer be maintaining it, as Marston helped found the society 81 years ago. The property is located at the edge of Balboa Park on Seventh Avenue.

Villa Montezuma, a Queen Anne gem built in 1887, has been closed for repairs since 2006. It’s located on K Street in Sherman Heights.

Both properties will be handed back to the city of San Diego. Given our city’s current financial state, it’s probable that another entity would be needed to raise funds, maintain the properties and reopen them to the public.

The properties currently operate at a deficit of $173,000 per year. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places. An excellent story was written about this in the San Diego Union-Tribune (“High cost of history,” 2/12/09), and a healthy debate has sprung up in the comments section of the story’s online version. 

What do you think? Are these unique and historic homes worth saving? If so, should it be done with public money? Or should private groups or businesses step in? One idea that was floated was to rent out the sites for events such as weddings or corporate galas. The Maritime Museum of San Diego does something similar to maintain the Star of India, the world’s oldest active ship.

One thing is sure – without funding, these sites will eventually be gone. When that happens, you can’t get them back.

4 Comments so far

  1. villamontezumafriends on February 20th, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

    These historic sites are priceless gems of San Diego that need to be maintained and reopened. The Friends of the Villa Montezuma (FOVM) have helped the San Diego Historical Society with the Villa since 1974, and incorporated as its own nonprofit in 2006 to better write grants. In the past three years the FOVM has taken the lead on working with the City of San Diego and lining up funding to fix the foundation. To date we’ve gotten $550,000 allocated, and we have more possible funding opportunities in the pipeline. Learn more about this amazing mansion at Download the 2008 Year In Review to see what we’ve been up to. Join the FOVM! We do walking tours of the Sherman Heights Historic District of downtown San Diego on the first and third Sunday of the month by reservation. Come on a walking tour for a small donation. The FOVM looks forward to raising the rest of the funds needed to fix the foundation, then, when the City puts out an RFP to operate the museum, we will apply. This museum is very much loved and an important part of the community. Contact us at or 619-255-9367. You can learn more about the Friends of the Marston House at Get involved!

  2. Joelle Reeder (missmoxie) on February 20th, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

    That makes me so sad. I’ve always wanted to check out both properties. Which one is haunted again? I keep forgetting. I think it’s the Marston House… They should really open Villa Montezuma up again. I understand that costs are an issue and our state is in a mega-deficit, but something really should be done to save these historic spots. *pout* Great article, Peg!

  3. Peggy Gartin (thepegisin) on February 21st, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

    Thanks, Joelle! Actually, it was Villa Montezuma that has given me the creeps twice. Marston House is just a gorgeous example of Craftsman/Arts & Crafts design. Both places are worth preserving, IMHO.

  4. Supporting San Diego History | San Diego Metblogs (pingback) on February 24th, 2009 @ 10:01 am

    […] Peg mentioned last week that the San Diego Historical Society will no longer be maintaining two of San Diego’s most beautiful h… due to overhead in this painful economy, it really bummed me out.   I have such respect for local […]

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