After five weeks at Huntington Beach we are packing up for our next move. Then we realize that we’ve overlooked posting anything about the two people who were responsible for donating the land that created Huntington Beach State Park: Archer Huntington and Anna Hyatt Huntington. The Huntington’s bought four defunct rice plantations during the Great Depression of the 1930s as a winter retreat. The property extended east to west from the Intercoastal Waterway to the Atlantic Ocean with Highway 17 running north to south about midway. Today, Atalaya, their winter home is preserved at Huntington SP and open to the public for a $2 fee. There are self-guided tours, an exhibition center and many photo opportunities.
Archer Huntington was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth… but as the stepson of Collis P. Huntington and Arabella (Duval) Huntington he lived the life of author, scholar and benefactor. Collis P. Huntington was a railroad magnate (Central Pacific and Southern Pacific) and founder of the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia. The Central Pacific line connected with the Union Pacific to become this country’s first transcontinental railroad. Archer Milton Huntington is best known as founder of The Hispanic Society of America, the Mariner’s Museum in Virginia and Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. I am fascinated with the connections between sites as we travel around. Steve and I had already planned a visit to the Mariner’s Museum for this Spring. Archer Huntington was married to and divorced from Helen Manchester Gates prior to marrying renowned sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. They celebrated March 3 as “3 in 1 day” as it was their anniversary and both birthdays. I can’t help but be curious as his first wife’s name included Manchester which is my maiden name. My long lost rich uncle? I doubt it but fun to wonder.
Anna Hyatt Huntington was the daughter of a professor of paleontology at Harvard and MIT. It was through him that she developed an interest in animal anatomy that would bring such life-like poses to her sculpture. she studied with several well known sculptors. Among them was Gutzon Borgum, sculptor of presidential faces at Mount Rushmore. Many of her sculptures can be seen in public parks around the country and in Brookgreen. Anna and Archer Huntington founded fourteen museums and four wildlife preserves. She preferred to sculpt from live animals. Her Don Quixote statue at Brookgreen used a pathetic horse she bought from a farmer. After the statue was finished she rehabilitated the horse and set it out to pasture to live happily. When working at Atalaya she had gamekeepers, pens and cages for dogs, monkeys and bears. The Huntington’s would travel to South Carolina each winter often in their new, fashionable RV. Anna Hyatt Huntington was one of the first sculptors to use cast aluminum as a medium.
If you were to find Atalaya without prior knowledge of its use or owners, you might think it to be an old Spanish prison. Archer Milton Huntington designed it and drew on his love of Moorish architecture and hispanic culture. The home was built around a central courtyard with two studios for Anna, a private living area and a servants living area. There were no guest rooms or public entertaining areas. This was where they took a break from the hectic social scene.
Across the street is Brookgreen Gardens. The phrase “always amazing, always changing” is seen as you enter. It is so true. This was my third visit to the gardens. I’ve been when it was a sultry summer day, at Christmas and on a cool, cloudy day in winter and always have seen something new. Besides Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculptures there are many other sculptures inside and out. Even in the cool of winter you’ll find blooms and colorful foliage. Part of the grounds is devoted to a wildlife preserve. then there is the zoo. I’d never come to this area before. The butterfly house isn’t open until April so I went on to the aviary. After walking into the double door entry I was stunned. At least fifty birds greeted me within five feet of the walkway. Not since the Galapagos have I been able to approach birds this close. There were herons, egrets and ibises. The aviary was the first of it’s kind to be built over a natural swamp. We arrived about 3pm and it was feeding time. After an hour of watching and many photos we moved on to exhibits of river otters, red and gray foxes and an eagle.
I’m sure we’ll return to this area for another snowbird stay in the future. When we do both Brookgreen and Hobcaw will provide new adventures. So where to next? Just wait and see.