Ranch & Coast Magazine

November 2023

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ranchandcoast.com 76 NOVEMBER 2023 RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE Postcards From the Past B EFORE SELFIES AND SOCIAL MEDIA, how did people tell each other where they were and what they were doing? rough postcards, which were first approved by Congress in 1898 with a mailing price of one penny. ey were created for advertising, and at the time, a stamp and address were all that was allowed on the back. But, people often scribbled notes over the picture on the front, and Congress soon changed the law to allow people to write on the back of the cards. at was in 1907, and in 1908, Americans mailed more than 677 million postcards — an astonishing number given that at the time the U.S. population was only 89 million. "Like today, there was a little bit of bragging involved — 'Look at me! Look where I am!' But it also helped to bring the world to other people and may even have encouraged them to visit the same place," says David Marshall, president of Heritage Architecture & Planning, a San Diego firm that specializes in the restoration and adaptive reuse of historic structures. Even more important, from Marshall's perspective, is that historic postcards are a primary resource when it comes to preservation projects — often better than original construction documents, which are just plans. "Postcards allow you to see what's missing or what's been added over the years," he says. "You see what a building looked like at a particular moment in time, sometimes including colors." Marshall has been with Heritage for 33 years and has worked on numerous projects in San Diego including the Western Metal Supply Company building at Petco Park, the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park, and the Hotel del Coronado. Perhaps not surprisingly, during that time, he has also become an avid collector of historic postcards, as was Heritage's founder, Wayne Donaldson, who was one of the first architects to focus on preservation in San Diego. "Wayne had a few hundred cards, most of them related to the buildings he'd worked on over the years, but I got into it much more dramatically. Once I started collecting, it was, 'Oh, I don't have that one,'" explains Marshall, who now has more than 4,000 postcards, almost all of San Diego County. Donaldson and Marshall also passed their interest to Eileen Magno, the firm's historian, who recently teamed with Marshall to coauthor Forgotten San Diego, a book featuring more than 200 historical postcards from Marshall's collection that vividly capture the county's past from 1890 to 1990. detour history Originally intended for research, an architect's collection becomes a love letter to San Diego BY BILL ABRAMS

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