Buried high on a hill above Mission Valley are the ruins of the San Diego Royal Presidio. Founded in 1769 and granted the status of a Royal Presidio five years later, the Presidio was the first Spanish outpost in Alta California. It continued to serve in that capacity until falling into decline in 1830 and abandoned in 1835, used for a time as a cattle and sheep corral.
Today, the ruins of California’s first European community are protected as part of Presidio Park managed by the City of San Diego, and they remain one of the most important and best preserved, Spanish colonial sites in the western United States.
Presidio Comandante Francisco María Ruiz built this house, c 1810–1817, next to his 1808 pear garden. He later gave it to his close relative and fellow soldier, Joaquín Carrillo, and his large family. From this adobe dwelling, in April 1829, daughter Josefa Carrillo eloped to Chile with Henry Delano Fitch. When Ruiz died in 1839, and Joaquín soon afterwards, son Ramón Carrillo sold this property to Lorenzo Soto. It was transferred several times before 1932, deteriorating gradually, until George Marston and associates restored the house and grounds, and deeded them to the City of San Diego as a golf course at Juan and Wallace Streets, Presidio Golf Course, San Diego.
This site is one of the most important Spanish period adobes in California and, as San Diego’s oldest existing house, and was the first to be built outside of the presidio; it is a rare artifact of the city’s forming years. Our goal would be to develop the house and its historic garden into an accurately restored outstanding historical attraction of the Spanish period in California.
Much has been written about George Marston over the years, but in the fall 1984 Journal of San Diego History, Dr. Nicholas C. Polos wrote that the Presidio Hill area also embodied his great affection for history. This was clearly evident in the early part of 1907, when Marston and four other members of the Chamber of Commerce began purchasing the lots on the hill to preserve the site of the “first Spanish mission of California,” hoping one day to convey the lots to the city at cost for the purpose of an historic park.
George White Marston’s feeling for beauty found expression in his efforts as a civic leader to improve his environment with development projects such as Balboa Park, Borrego Desert Park, Torrey Pines Park, the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, and eventually Presidio Park.