George Marston

Date in History: 1850 – 1930s

George Marston, the man who helped shape the civic and cultural development of the beautiful city of San Diego, California, was a Fort Atkinson boy. Born here in 1850, George grew up at the home his dad built at 323 Merchants Avenue, later the home of Arthur Hoard. When he was twenty, the family moved west to San Diego and George would go on to become a successful businessman and wealthy philanthropist whose interests in urban planning and park development would shape the future of his adopted city.

It was Marston’s generosity and vision that led to the opening of museums and the creations of parks, including San Diego’s spectacular Bilboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in America But when he ran for mayor in 1917, his beautification efforts worked against him as he was portrayed by his opponent as being anti-business. In a memorable race, characterized as the “Smokestack versus the Geranium,” Geranium George went down to defeat. But Marston would get the last laugh as the people of San Diego still remember him fondly as “San Diego’s First Citizen.”

This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 05/16/2005.

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