By Nancy Armitage
The Huntington’s “Homestead” estate had a Victorian Gothic Mansion situated on a amazing 400 acres – later 800 acres. The palatial haven filled with several lawns, amazing shade trees, & spectacular gardens. The property that bordered the Eastchester Bay, & Long Island Sound around to the East River, today known as the Bronx or Brooklyn. Originally, the lush estate was in smaller land holdings, the Huntington’s were able to acquire land from the nearby Havermeyer Estate called “Beau Rivage”, Ashe property, & Mitchell acres thus increasing their acreage.
The couple (Collis & Arabella Huntington) were married in July of 1884 at Mrs. Arabella Worsham’s 4- story mansion at 4 54th Street in New York City. After they got married, Arabella & Collis honeymooned at their newly acquired “Homestead” Estate. They spent a blissful summer away from the hustle & bustle of downtown New York City.
It was recorded in the New York Social Register (1902) that the Huntington’s Throgg’s Neck estate was the couple’s summer residence & weekend estate ; their Long Island Sound estate was also referred to as the Mitchell, Ashe, & Havermeyer properties, too. The beauty of the location was it’s Oceanfront views and closeness to midtown New York, & the location of “Murray Hill”, (the main Huntington Mansion at No. 2 on Fifty-Seventh Street & 5th Ave. in New York City). The Huntington’s could go into town & partake in all of the cultural conveniences of the city (the theatre, shopping, the opera, & restaurants) but then return at night to the relaxing “Homestead” at the shore.
Arabella’s son, Archer M. Huntington was a member of the New York Yacht Club, in the late 1890’s. The NY Yacht club locations were at Newport, Rhode Island & NYC; the New York Yacht Club hosted the America Cup sailing races. Quite an exciting event indeed. Archer Huntington owned a yacht called “N. V. ROCINANTE”, (150 ft. yacht) probably parked at both at his Pelham Bay – Oyster Bay estate & at her mother and father’s Throggs Neck “Homestead” estate or at NY Yacht Club harbor in Newport, Rhode Island. In Archer’s younger years, he had schooner was called “Elfin”. Also, included on the Throgg’s Neck estate was a groundskeeper’s home & a large boathouse located near the large Huntington wharf.
There were several docks on the “Homestead” Huntington estate too, the large one was deepwater or “Old Ferry Dock” (which now connects with Whitestone Bridge. It was large enough for the local steamers/ferries to dock & pick up Collis Huntington to go to his office at Southern Pacific Co. on Broad Street in NYC. A easy way for Mr. Huntington to go to work in the city or to the family reunions at “Colliscraft” (named after Collis where they would have family reunions across the river). They would also use the Southern Pacific Co. ferries to start their long journeys to their Great Huntington Camp in the Adirondack Mountains. It was called Camp Pine Knot at Raquette Lake in upper state New York.
Behind the 4 stately Huntington gates on the estate, the grand Huntington Mansion was considered a model residence. For a seaside, “country residence”, it had many of the most modern conveniences of the day, per the blueprint of the land. The mansion had its own advanced system of water & gas works, unusual in the 1880’s. On the large property, there were numerous horse stables & barns, chicken coops, garden conservatories, farm buildings, rose houses, & garages. There were 100’s acres of rolling pastures, included on the grounds leading down to the shores of the Eastchester Bay north Long Island Sound and Weir Creek to the east and the East River to the South (where the Mansion was). After Mrs. Huntington died, her estates lists her owning 100’s of parcels of land at Throggs Neck, City Island, and Westchester Co.
At “Homestead” there were lovely garden shady walks, garden paths to the elaborate Victorian conservatory, with a palm & exotic flowers. With the salt air, it created an atmosphere of privacy & relaxation for the Huntington’s & their numerous houseguests & family. Mrs. Arabella Huntington loved her flowers: especially roses (pink, white & red), orchids, lily of the valley, & violets.
In the book, The History of Westchester County, it documents three etchings of the Huntington’s “Homestead” property. Two etchings are of the Huntington Victorian Gothic mansion & one of the large Huntington Wharf. On a clear day, or a pleasant evening Mr. Huntington, “gentlemen of commanding stature dressed in black & wearing a black skull cap may often be seen strolling up & down in conversation with friends, or watching the steam boats or sailing-vessels as they pass, in a genial humor, & always ready with his jovial story or generous laugh. ..”
The large 49-room Huntington Mansion was a four-story Victorian Gothic with two wings. It had 4-story towers at the end of each of the wings. The seaside mansion was complete with a Victorian widow’s walk on the roof. They had a double-wide Victorian veranda in the front with an extended colonnaded portico. The portico was built to accommodate the horse drawn carriages of the Huntington’s guests; it was situated on the driveway side of the mansion. The white brick covered with stucco were the outside walls of the home & four chimneys protruded from the roof. The veranda had bay windows extending out from the mansion. The etchings show hanging baskets of flowers between each of the decorative columns on the porches. It was known that white & pink flowers (especially roses) were favorites of Mrs. Arabella Huntington.
In Bennett’s book, The Art of Wealth informs us the young Mrs. Arabella Huntington was quite passionate about her gardens at Huntington’s Homestead -Throgg’s Neck property. She had a ornate Victorian conservatory they called the “Palm House”, a fern house, a rosary (rose house), a violet house, with a large kitchen garden, too. An orchard of trees with fruit & nut trees, also. Arabella joked that she could start a violet farm, with all her English violets, Russian violets, & Parma violets, too. Arabella has a large botanical library to educate herself about flowers. Mr. Collis Huntington had a gentlemen’s “playhouse” by the shore with a great view of the water & Long Island; it had a Bowling Alley & Billard’s room.
There were bronze urns on pedestals filled with fragrant flowers lined the walkways & driveway to the residence. Arabella had these urns planted with either fragrant lilies of the valley, ferns, or roses. On Huntington family ledgers, there were hundreds of Lilies of the Valley bulbs (a favorite of the Huntingtons) purchased for the Huntingtons’ Throgg’s Neck seaside property.
It seems that Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) had a nautical theme in dining at Throgg’s Neck. They dined in elegance with the finest of her china, crystal, & (Gorham) sterling silver, with Gorham silver used at the White House. We know she was partial to gold and white china plates by Haviland, Copeland and Garrett and Dresden. At this location, she owned Coalport fine china plates (Blue, gold & white) which could have been used at Throgg’s Neck.
The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, VA had nautical Clipper ship dinner plates ( blue & white), donated by Archer Huntington after Arabella Huntington death. These were Wedgewood & Spode fine china (American clipper ship) plates, Arabella collected hundreds of pieces of Blue Transferware in Sheffield, Wedgewood, & Spode. We know Arabella collected Old Wedgewood fine china & had a huge “service” set of 100 pieces in 1884. It makes sense that a nautical or patriotic theme could have been Arabella’s “entertainments” at this grand seaside estate. Nautical themed plateware would be great for her summertime holidays: Memorial Day, patriotic American 4th of July, Lobster Feasts & Clam bakes, & Labor day all would warrant a Red, White & Blue American- Nautical Theme.
Even though this mansion was a seaside house, dining was still a formal affair for the Huntington Family. We know that Mrs. Huntington also had fancy Coalport dinner service (Cobalt blue, gold & white) & nautical looking.
Also, I found in the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Co. archives is a “George Washington” gold plate. This is no ordinary plate it is a large ornate dinner plate or charger with a thick gold rim; in the middle of the plate a fine portrait of George Washington. On the back in the middle that were used on the C&O RR Co. Railroad. These patriotic plates were used on the C & O Railroad which the Huntington Family used the railroad, actually built that railroad, too. Collis & H. E. “Edwards” built that railway together, hosting presidents, royalty, & traveling from NYC to Washington DC. Could have Arabella ordered these handsome plates for her own dining??
February was a month that was specifically for Americans to honor George Washington (many Huntington luncheons menus for the Birthday of our 1st President – George Washington) I found one from New York Chamber of Commerce & other NYC clubs that the Huntington were member of in the archives) & also President Lincoln menus. Henry E. Huntington has an amazing collection of Washington & Lincoln menu ephemera & collections (at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA)
A patriotic party for 4th of July would have been a festive affair. Often, on the Huntington menus was “Roman Punch”. Maybe they used the 1887 White House Cookbook for the recipe for “Roman Punch No. 2”. It is a combination of lemonade, extract of lemon, brandy & rum. This cookbook was also located at the Huntington Library rare book collection.
There was fun family occasions like weekends, especially Sundays, & the 4th of July. From the Huntington estate I found numerous fish monger invoices. The Huntingtons would have served up a grand seafood feast indeed. They would have served their guests: oyster suppers, clambakes (Clams & or Mussels with sausage and corn on the cob), & large Lobster feasts with melted sweet butter served with cole slaw on the Sound. While watching Annual Summer Regattas and even the America’s Cup yachts race by, while drinking Southern Sweet Iced Tea or a lovely cold Southern Seaside Punch. Maybe a Summertime Spanish Paella with a medley of seafood like Lobster, shirimp, mussels, clams, chicken & pork sausage all cooked in a seafood broth & served with Spanish yellow rice (turmeric). This would have pleased Archer Huntington who loved all things Spanish. In 1904, Archer opened up his Spanish Museum called The Hispanic Society of America at Audubon Terrace in NYC.
A typical seafood dinner (Luncheon or Supper) on the Long Island Sound was a lobster feast, or a clambake. The feast would always start with raw oysters on the half shell: Blue Points are the best. The soup course might be a Brooklyn-Throgg’s Neck Red Clam Chowder or New England white Clam Chowder; or a Southern influence by Arabella: Oyster Stew or Southern Seafood Gumbo. The tradition of Brooklyn or Throggs Neck Red Clam Chowder is a delicious spicy red chowder: a mixture of clams, clam broth, potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables, & herbs (like oregano & basil).
Throggs Neck Red Clam Chowder Recipe
4 lb. quahog clams
1 t. olive oil
2 celery stacks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
4 irish russet potatoes, chop
1 c. clam broth
2 t. thyme, minced
1 t. butter
1 onion, minced
2 carrots, chopped
1 large can whole tomatoes (28 oz.)
2 t. tomato paste
2 t. Greek oregano, minced
salt and finely ground black pepper
dash of Tabasco or cayenne pepper
To reduce sand & grit, in bottom of pan, soak the clams in water 4 times in sink about 15 mins. each. Fully drain water & rinse after each soak. In a large stock pot, add 2 qt. water & all the clams. Put on high heat & bring to boil, reduce heat & wait for the clams to open. Take clams from their shells & set aside; discard the shells. If any clams did not open, throw them away. In the same stock, add butter & vegetables & saute. Add herbs & tomatoes. Add clam broth & bring to boil. Reduce to simmer & cook 30-40 minutes until the veggies are cooked. Add the clams back into the chowder & season to taste. Recipe: Nancy Armitage & Kathi Davis
On the Huntington grocery invoices, hundreds of pounds of fish & shellfish were ordered for the Huntington estate at “Throggs Neck” & at the Huntington Mansion in NYC: “No. 2” on 57th Street in the New York City. Seafood galore was shipped to the Huntington’s residence: lobster, clams, mussels & other types of fresh fish (like Kingfish, Salmon, & Seabass ) were abundant. Oysters for raw oysters or oyster chowder, Shrimp or Crab Cocktail, Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce, Clams & Mussels, Clam Balls is a New England tradition, French-style Mussels (mushrooms, onions & cream), Scallops, & the grand finale being the whole New England Lobsters with sweet butter. Maybe they served canapes on doily-lined silver trays, Roquefort Puffs or Canapes Washington. Seaside Salads could have been Seafood Salad, or Waldorf Salad (made of apples, celery, walnuts & mayonnaise). Arabella was a Southern Belle, she always had a little bit of “the South” in her menus. Sides could be Southern Cheese Grits or Hominy, Corn on the Cob, Sauteed Salsify or “Oyster Plant”, or Southern Baked Beans.
Southern Cheese Grits Recipe
6 c. chicken stock
2 c. grits or hominy
2 C. New york sharp cheddar cheese
3 garlic cloves
Salt and white pepper
½ stick butter
½ half and half
dash tabasco or worcestershire sauce
dash paprika or cayenne pepper
In a medium saucepan, add chicken stock, garlic, grits, salt & pepper, Using a whisk, stir the ingredients for about 8 minutes. In a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients. Pour into a casserole dish. top with some cheddar cheese. Bake 350@ for 35-40 mins. Recipe by Nancy Armitage
The ending to this seaside seafood feast would be summertime desserts like pies, or hand held pie (half moon) for a picnic, & elegant petit tea tarts. The Huntington ate New York Cheesecake, Cape Cod Berry Pie, Washington Pie, or Cranberry Tarts, or Southern Pecan Tassie (some bite size tart). Some of the best pies are a mixture of berries: with raspberries, blackberries & blueberries with cinnamon & sugar. Apples, a New York tradition could have come in a pie, small individual tarts, or Apple Russe pudding but served with homemade ice cream, a Huntington family favorite with lots of berries & fresh fruit.
Also, Mrs. Arabella “Belle” Huntington often served Petit Fours a teatime. They are a lovely petit square tea cake iced with Royal icing. The Huntingtons preferred a special blended tea which was made by mixing India tea mixed with Ceylon tea making an delicious Orange Pekoe Tea. Mrs. Huntington could have added roses petals or orange peel and/or cinnamon. They also drank Lipton’s tea & Ridgeway Tea which is Orange Pekoe tea, a refreshing tea served cold in the summertime. This popular tradition of “Iced Tea” came to America, one hot summer at the World’s Fair in 1904.
A Collis Huntington loved to be surrounded by family & friends in New York for the Fourth of July. Many get-togethers are recorded by E. Burke Holladay in his journals. Throgg’s Neck was so close to the Long Island Sound the estate was perfectly situated for viewing the magnificent fireworks in the East River. Or they could have sailed on Archer’s yacht or the ferry boat on to the New York Harbor. The Huntington’s were a very patriotic family & very proud to be American. The Fourth of July was a special occasion for them & they would have enjoyed the holiday not only for the delicious food but also for what the American Day represented to them.
Arabella’s husband, Collis P. Huntington sadly died in August of 1900. American newspaper reports said that the economy of the United States of America would have been affected by his death, he was that wealthy! Arabella was well taken care off when he died. It was stated in the New York Times that she was the wealthiest woman in the United States after Collis passed away. Arabella Huntington used the Throgg’s Neck estate often with her family & friends after Collis died on weekends & holidays. She also spent a great deal of time in Paris, France. Mrs. Huntington would stay at the Hotel Paris Ritz and Hotel Bristol in Paris. She had many friends that also had residence in Paris. In 1907, she bought her 1st mansion in Paris on rue Gabriel (rebuilt by Baron Hirsch & once occupied by Empress Eugenie of France. In 1913, when Arabella Huntington (Mrs. Collis P. Huntington) married H. E. “Edwards” Huntington they enjoyed many more peaceful Huntington family vacations there at the Huntington Estate at Throgg’s Neck, also.
Historical Note: The layout of the Huntington “Homestead” property was outlined on several large blueprints (Syracuse University). These blueprints were created in 1922 by Earl B. Lovell, an engineer & city surveyor. They really help us to understand what the property looked like when the Huntingtons lived there. The Throggs Neck – C. P. Huntington property had been previously owned by Frederick C. Havermeyer from June 1874-1884. The streets on the property were Morris Lane, East Tremont Ave., 177th Street, & an old road from Fort Schuyler to dock to village of Westchester in New York, (which is now Brooklyn). The entire property was surrounded by a tall granite wall & granite posts & several tall (4) elaborate gates on all sides.
New York Yacht Club in “the city” is on 44th St. NYC & New York Yacht club (on the water) located in Newport, Rhode Island, hosted America’s cup events & annual regattas. Archer Huntington was a member of the New York Yacht Club.
The Huntington “Homestead” at Throggs Neck property had large brick buildings, one of them a brick tower for Huntington guards at the corner of Morris Lane. The blueprint describes the Huntington Mansion on the estate as a 2- story Victorian Gothic Mansard Stucco flanked by two four-story stucco wings with a huge triple porch or veranda with steps on each side of the house. The property had numerous framed buildings, some 1-story high & some 2- story high, probably housing for gardeners, guards, chauffeurs, etc. The property had 3 large hot houses, 2 boathouses, 3 docks (large dock big enough to dock the steamship ferry to pick up the Huntingtons & entourage), old long dock on Mitchell property, & the old dock built by Whitestone Ferry Co.-Sept.1913). The property had several large horse stables; Mrs. Huntington’s horses; a man named Sullivan took good care of them. Mrs. Arabella D.Huntington also raced her horses, I found evidence in H.E. Huntington Journal Ledgers, also 1 large brick horse stable, & several other framed stables- one on the old public Road Whitestone ferry. There is also an interesting description to some of the property as the “Virgil de Escoriaza”.
Book: Scharf, John Thomas, History of Westchester County, 1886
New York Times Newspaper article, “C. P. Huntington’s Purchase” November 23, 1898 (Mr. Collis Huntington purchases another 100 acres adjoining the 300 acres which he already owned in Bronx borough, waterfront owned by John Mitchell)
New York Times Article, “C.P. Huntington acquires Havermeyer estate”, 1890’s [which was 300 acres]
New York Times article: Sept. 4,1902 “Waitress shot by one of Mrs. Huntington’s Men” (numerous gates on Huntington estate)
New York Social Register (Social Directory) 1904, 1921
Syracuse University, Mrs. Arabella Huntington estate papers, Throgg’s Neck Blueprint of Mansion & property
Book: H. E. Huntington a Biography by Thorpe
Documents at the Huntington Library San Marino CA: HEH Coll. HEH MS 38/11 uncat (New York House); Household receipts at the No. 2 57th St. NYC & Throgg Neck “TN” Fishmonger bill, for Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington bills 1919 (Huntington Library, San Marino, CA);HEH Coll. HEH MS 53/2 (1-2) (E. Burke Hollidays Journals; HEH’s brother in law) HEH Coll. MS 19/5 MS uncat (HEH bio file) & H. E. Huntington checkbook ledgers, (100’s of Lilies of the Valley bulbs purchases for TN-Throggs Neck ) Hunt. Library, SM Calif. HEH Coll 37/1-18 Arabella Huntington Surrogate Court property papers; (Arabella’s will had 100’s of parcels of Throggs Neck in her will.)
January 23, 1900 Dinner Menu: Mr. & Mrs. Collis Huntington hosted a Huntington banquet at the No. 2 Huntington Mansion, they served “Hominy & Jelly with Canvas Back Duck”.
Book: The Art of Wealth by Bennett (talks of the Throggs Neck gardens & flowers of Arabella)
Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad archives, Gold & white ornate “George Washington” service plates
New York Yacht Club in the city in on 44th St NYC and New York Yacht club (on the water) located in Newport, Rhode Island, hosted America’s cup events & annual regattas. Archer Huntington was a member of the New York Yacht Club.