A few weeks ago, we had a great conversation with Anne and Peg Marston about the Class 1 streetcars and Balboa Park for our television program “San Diego’s Lost Treasure: The Historic Class 1 Streetcars, 100 Years Later” (which you can view right now on our website). We hope you’ll enjoy watching the extended interview with the Marston’s up above. This conversation definitely got us thinking a lot about San Diego, the historical and cultural roots of our community, and historic preservation…
At a recent TED event, historic preservationist Rhonda Sincavage, stated: “It’s not about saving an individual building; preservation is more about building community.”
Historic preservation not only preserves our physical historic resources, but also protects the roots of culture that allow the present community to feel connected to their past. In a city like Charleston, SC, the history of the community is immediately apparent in the beautiful architecture as well as the regular recognition of historical events. Visitors flock to learn, experience, and understand the history of the city. Moreover, by retaining the relics of the past, locals are raised in a community where their history is simply apart of everyday life. In their preservation, the Charlestonians of today are inextricably tangled in the roots of their culture. Such roots tie people to their communities as they make life decisions. As we build careers and have families, we are more likely to create our own roots within our community if we feel that deep connection. In San Diego, many residents, especially younger people, often express that they feel there is no real history, no real culture. Perhaps these people feel that the soil here holds no real roots, so as they move forward and look to plant their own they turn to cities like Charleston, Portland, Seattle, or Austin that make a point to protect and build upon their history. However, in our estimation, the cultural and historical soil in San Diego is surprising fertile.
George Marston, the patriarch of the Marston family who came to San Diego in 1870, was known as “San Diego’s First Citizen.” In our recent conversation with Ann and Peg Marston regarding their memories of San Diego’s streetcars and Balboa Park, Peg charmingly recounted her husband Hamilton Marston’s experience of the opening day of the 1915 Exposition. The Marstons have long been known for their community involvement and historical preservation of many landmarks in San Diego and beyond, including Balboa Park, the Marston House, Presidio Park, and the Anza Borrego Desert. Hamilton himself was instrumental in the important “Temporary Paradise?” urban planning study and was known for emphasizing the balance between progress and preservation. Because of families like the Marstons, San Diego has created and retained considerable roots for future generations.
When thinking of San Diego history, many think of wonderful and iconic places like Balboa Park, The Hotel del Coronado, the Missions, the Point Loma Lighthouse, and the Whaley House in historic Old Town. But we shouldn’t forget our historic communities like Golden Hill, South Park, North Park, The Boulevard, Hillcrest, Mission Hills, and Banker’s Hill. They may be less tourist-driven, but they are still invaluable in the story of San Diego’s past. And as we San Diegans become both more appreciative of our history and more forward thinking, it’s up to us to continue to protect our historic resources as we make our city an even better place to live.
San Diego should be seen as more than just a place with nice weather or a transient city where folks come for school and head out to more fertile pastures after graduation. We think the Class 1 streetcars will be a key element in revitalizing the history of our urban neighborhoods and encouraging our roots to continue to grow and expand. Let’s help connect new generations to San Diego’s past by laying the rails to San Diego’s public transportation future — we deserve it.