The effort to restore the home of California’s first doctor has gotten a much-needed infusion.
The 7,000 square-foot sandstone mansion built in 1856 by Dr. John Marsh in what is now Brentwood, will receive $1.4 million for construction and restoration after Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa) helped secure the funding as part of the state’s new budget.
“Given the house’s standing in our local history and the rich archeological composition surrounding it, restoring this treasure will be a huge benefit to students, nature lovers, and history buffs from throughout the region,” Glazer said.
Contra Costa District III Supervisor Diane Burgis, a long-time advocate of the house, helped make Glazer aware of the importance of the site. The house is the centerpiece of the yet-to-open Marsh Creek State Historic Park, which is also rich with the history of Native Americans who once inhabited the area and archaeological deposits that date back thousands of years. A planned trail system and other recreational opportunities, as well as the natural resources preserved in the 3,700-acre park, will be a big benefit to the public, and to the students at the new Los Medanos College extension located next door.
“There are so many opportunities for the community to take advantage of all the park has to offer,” Burgis said. “A lot of kids think that history happened somewhere else, but a lot happened, right here in our backyard, too.”
The John Marsh Historic Trust, which has worked for more than 20 years to stabilize and restore the house, hails the funding as “a game-changer,” said President Barry Margesson. “Trust’s dream of a fully restored Marsh house serving as East County’s premier site for the public to explore and relive the Rancho era leading up to the Gold Rush and statehood has taken a giant leap.”
Following the news, The Trust has launched a new effort to match the state’s investment. “The Trust looks forward to working with California State Parks and local government agencies to bring about this shared vision,” Margesson said.
“We’re ecstatic!” said Trust Board Member Rick Lemyre. “The Stone House has languished too long, not only in the shadow of Mount Diablo but in the shadows of history. This money will not only help preserve an iconic structure and the history of the man who built it but to celebrate and learn from the cultures of the Native American and Hispanic people who once lived in the Marsh Creek State Historic Park as well. Many thanks to Sen. Glazer and Supervisor Burgis for helping to make this happen!”
Marsh, a Harvard graduate, arrived in Southern California in 1835 and became the first to practice Western medicine in what was then the Mexican territory known as Alta California. In 1853 he moved north and became the future Contra Costa County’s first resident of Anglo-European descent when he established his Rancho Los Meganos. Marsh was murdered in 1856 by disgruntled employees near Martinez.
Press Release via Supervisor Diane Burgis