Since 1856 the John Marsh House has stood along Marsh Creek, attempting to withstand the ravages of time and the elements. Though emergency repairs have kept the stone building from collapsing, a more permanent solution now appears at hand.
For more than 20 years, members of the John Marsh Historic Trust have campaigned to raise awareness and money toward the house's preservation. The John Marsh House represents a man who was an important force in western migration, who maintained relationships with Native Americans and made significant contributions to California statehood.
The house also stands as the focal point of the future 3,700-acre Marsh Creek State Park that surrounds it.
"The house itself is magnificent," Alexandra Ghiozzi, John Marsh Historic Trust chairwoman, said. "When it was built it was the largest stone house in the area and represents the first home settled by a nonnative American in this area."
Though past efforts by the trust working with the California Cultural Historic Endowment, city of Brentwood, Cowell Foundation and California State Parks raised more than $1 million for emergency repairs for the 7,000-square-foot building, recent storms, weather and gravity have it close to collapse. Even steel beams installed in 2000 were a temporary fix.
Now a stabilization solution is in place, along with the funding to allow the work to proceed. The work will involve inserting steel studs through the walls and drilling rods through the studs. To hold it all in place and add structural strength, a thick layer of construction foam similar to that used in roofing will be sprayed into the hollow walls.
"This foam has not been previously used in historic preservation, but it's a wonderful material because it will solidify and form a strong enough bond to save the house," Ghiozzi said. "The steel studs and foam will shore up the walls from further damage."
Funds for the $750,000 project have been raised -- $200,000 from the CCHE and $350,000 raised by the John Marsh Historic Trust -- as well as some funding contributed by the state parks. Drawings and plans have been filed and approved and the go-ahead to begin work awaits the signal from the state parks.
The trust is happy to partner with the state parks, the rightful owners of the house, but its concern is that additional delays could increase costs and the CCHE funding could be lost if not used by April 2014, Ghiozzi said. The $350,000 raised by the trust represents the sum total of their donations.
"This is all the money we've been able to raise over several years, we'll be cash-poor at the end of this project," she said.
While the stabilization and eventual renovation of John Marsh House is one issue, another is the status of the park itself. Though the site was officially named a state park in 2012, funds were not available to get the park open and that status remains. As such, the trust has now expanded its mission, beyond the house itself, to raising awareness among Brentwood residents and political leaders to have the park opened.
Once open, it will be the largest state historic park in California, as well as being an important archeological area, holding artifacts from human activity from 7,000 years ago. In conjunction with Round Valley Regional Park and Mount Diablo, it will create one of the largest open spaces in the state.
With this in mind, the John Marsh Historic Trust asks the public's help in two areas: to contribute financially to the trust and to write to state and local officials to get the park open.
"Our vision is for the house to be a museum, a place of learning and a cultural resource for the community," Ghiozzi said. "If we can get a groundswell of people who say that they really want the park open, that it's important for their community, I think that would go a long way in getting the house open."
For more information or to make contributions to the John Marsh Historic Trust visit www.johnmarshhouse.com or call 925-679-5811.