John Marsh was the first American citizen to settle in what today is Contra Costa County. A medical doctor and operator of a cattle ranch, Marsh lived on the Rancho Los Meganos property from 1837 to 1856. In September of 1856, he was murdered on his way to San Francisco by three vaqueros who had received payment for work done, but disputed the amount of compensation received from Marsh.
A contract has been awarded to City Building, Inc. of San Francisco for the initial stabilization of the historic structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The project has been funded through a California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) grant of $808,379 to the City of Brentwood in collaboration with California State Parks, which owns the property as part of the Cowell Ranch/John Marsh State Historic Park. Established in 2003 by Governor Gray Davis, funding for the endowment was derived from Proposition 40, the voter-approved bond act of 2002. Additional grants are being sought by the John Marsh Historic Trust to subsidize the eventual restoration of the house.
“We welcome this public/private partnership to save this significant piece of California history,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. The CCHE grant contract includes, among other things, work to anchor and brace perimeter walls, installation of beams and columns to support floor joists and roof framing, and design for a weather-tight exterior. This work is designed to provide for stabilization to prevent collapse, while also allowing for some selective demolition to provide for a more comprehensive condition assessment for future phases of work.
The initial stabilization phase is expected to begin in mid-March and last five months. It is not intended to create a fully finished building interior, accessible to the public. That would occur in future phases as additional funds become available through private and public sources.
“The City of Brentwood is excited to be a partner with State Parks and the Trust to assist with the funding in saving this truly remarkable house,” said Brentwood Parks and Recreation Director Craig Bronzan. “This project is important not only for the citizens of Brentwood and the surrounding communities, but for all of California – and we are proud to play our part.”
According to Gene Metz of the John Marsh Historic Trust, “This is long-sought, wonderful news that provides assurance that work to save the historic Marsh house is happening. The Trust is actively seeking the means of extending this vital work, and we are proud to be partners with Brentwood and California State Parks.”