By Nancy Armitage
On Sunday, February 5, 1922, Mr. & Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Edwards & Belle) hosted a lovely Valentine’s luncheon for 12 guests. It was in honor of the Admiral & Mrs. Edward W. Eberle at their Huntington Mansion on the San Marino Ranch. Admiral Edward Eberle was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet of the U. S. Navy. This “entertainment” of the Huntington’s is recorded by Henry E. Huntington’s brother-in-law, “Burke” in his journal:
Burke Holladay writes: “February 2, 1922, Belle & Edwards [H. E. Huntington & his wife, Arabella] gave a luncheon to Admiral & Mrs. Eberle, we (2) were there [Carrie & Burke Holladay], – also Mr. Patton & Anita, Mr. & Mrs. E. J. Marshall, Leslie Huntington [Howard Huntington’s wife] & Mr. Judah. At 4:30, we drove with them in the Sedan to Hotel Virginia, Long Beach returning & dining with B. & E. [Belle & Edwards] for formal dinner. ” Document: HEH Coll. MS 10968 uncat (Burke Holladay Journals) at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
February in Southern California can be sunshine, rain, chilly or warm. Whether it was cold & warm outside, they would have had a sit-down formal luncheon in the Huntington Dining Room of the Huntington Mansion. Most likely, with a red & gold flare; because St. Valentines Day was coming up soon in a week’s time.
In February, there would have been a abundance of oranges, to decorate plates with bright orange slices; or to decorate glasses of iced tea (if 75 degree weather). From the ranch fruit on hand, a typical thing that was made was “Fruit cocktail“. In the 1920’s, they also called “Tutti-Fruitti” & it was made usually in a Bauer (South Pasadena & LA) pottery crock with a heavy lid. Tutti-Fruitti is a cornucopia of different fruits mixed with brandy or liqueurs like orangy curacao to make a delicious fancy fruit cocktail. Nora, the Huntington’s Head Housekeeper would have love to make tutti-frutti. Nora would have had a great abundance of summer fruits from the Huntington’s orchard, like oranges, plum, peaches, nectarines. Probably very overwhelming when she and the cook had much to do. Mr. & Mrs. Henry Huntington didn’t like wastefulness at all. Making “Tutti-Frutti” solved the problem. The Huntingtons often would have grapefruit cocktail or fruit cocktail (Tutti-frutti) or Shrimp Cocktail as the 1st course of breakfast or luncheons.
On January 24, 1914, Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington went downtown LA to Parmalee Dohrmann & had a shopping spree of fine plateware (1000’s). At that time, they purchased 2 doz. Elite Haviland fancy foot custard cup/compote bowl & saucers to use for the occasion of serving tutti-frutti or a seafood cocktail. The Huntington often had a fruit compote for breakfast, also. These charming Haviland vessels would have been perfect and beautiful too.
Mrs. Huntington loved to serve her fruit cocktail on Haviland footed fancy compote dishes made by Elite Works. Her favorite plateware was white, gold with pink roses in Haviland. At the San Marino Ranch I have found 20 different patterns just in Haviland alone. Served on a gold & white salad or dessert plate, fruit cocktail would have made a lovely presentation to their guests. Mrs. Huntington had several gold & white patterns of plateware: “Marquis” pattern by Haviland, Limoges gold & white, & Copeland & Garrett gold & white.
Often in the 1920’s, a formal luncheon consisted of 4 courses: a cocktail (shrimp cocktail or fruit cocktail like tutti-frutti, etc.), soup or salad, entree, & a dessert.
Soups were eaten twice a day at the Huntington Mansion: for formal luncheons & for formal dinners. So there was always soup being made in large stockpots in the Huntington kitchen; the cook also had to fed the servant staff and house employees (12-16 people). There would have been winter vegetables from the 2 large Ranch Vegetable gardens. Winter veggies were Spinach, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, & Cauliflower. In February, the kitchen could have made a hearty warm soup like, French Cauliflower Soup, Spinach Soup, “Potage St. Germain” (Split Pea Soup recipe from Paris), or a hearty Beef & Barley with veggies Soup. Soup was always presented with soup bowl some with 2 handles, placed on a doily- lined large plate, then decorated with sprinkle of chopped chives or herbs on top.
There is also evidence that Mrs. Huntington had seasonal plateware. For themed parties, there were so many different patterns of Haviland Plateware. On the Parmalee Dohrmann- LA invoices, there was Haviland autumn plates, Red & white plates also numerous red & white sugar bowls, (St. Valentines Day) & summer “blackberry” Haviland plates. In early February, just before St. Valentines’s Day, they purchased 6 red & white Haviland plateware & sugar bowls.
One of the plateware invoices from Parmalee-Dohrmann in 1914 stated that the Huntingtons bought: 1/2 doz. (6) Haviland Sugar Bowls with 2 handles & lids (red & white), why so many? I thought that was odd & then I started thinking about it: I bet Mrs. Huntington used the sugar bowls for soup vessels! Especially Haviland sugar bowls which are quite large, they hold about 2 cups of liquid in them. The host & the cook would want hot soup to remain hot as it arrived at the Dining Room Table from the Huntington Kitchen. Problem solved, buy soup vessels (sugar bowls) with lids. These large sugar bowls – “soup vessels” would have made a great statement on the luncheon table, also. Especially if the soup vessel was placed on a gold & white plate as illustrated above. So the 6 guest might have gotten gold & white sugar bowls for their soup. It’s a brilliant idea for any entertainer & pretty for one’s tablescape!
For the luncheon entree, they could have had Chicken or Fish, San Marino Ranch Roasted Turkey, or Capons of Chicken with a Mushroom Wine sauce. The Huntingtons had a dessert cook names Mrs. Lena Kley. She made divine desserts: homemade cookies, scones, & tea dainties for Mrs. Huntington’s guests. Her Huntington Mansion specialty was a Honey Cocoa Bar (between a chocolate Trifle and a Brownie,a “Petit four” iced with Royal Icing) and Cinnamon Swirls Cookies. For dessert, The Huntingtons might have served a Charlotte Russe or a Pudding with Hard Sauce or Ice cream or a English/Irish Trifle. A Trifle (made in a clear glass bowl) made with many layers of pound cake, fresh fruit or tutti-frutti with whipped cream & chocolate shavings sprinkle on top.
After the luncheon tea in the Huntington Mansion, they would have retired to the covered Loggia (rain or shine). The loggia was a favorite place for Mr. Huntington to play cards with his neighbor & friend, Mr. Patton. The east facing Loggia has a lovely view of the San Gabriel Mountains & Huntington’s gardens. The Loggia which is a covered terracotta tiled porch. Mrs. Huntington had fragrant flower arrangements filled with 100’s roses and Lilies and carnation from Huntington’s gardens.
In the Huntington’s Coatroom, (right next to the Loggia) had a music box with records (Electric Victrola from Victor Talking Machine Co.) The Huntington’s would instructed the staff to fit the music to the mood of the party; Mrs. Huntington was partial to classical music & opera. It was a beautiful winter day in San Marino & several other guests were invited to this Garden party, music from the records in the coatroom would have been lovely. Everything had to be just so; for Mrs. Huntington she liked her parties or “entertainments” special for all of her guests.
When Mr. Huntington took a guest on a tour of the Huntington Mansion he didn’t showboat his treasures. According to the Alfonso the Huntington’s Head butler: Mr. Huntington started a house tour in the basement, not at the “Blue Boy” painting. Down in the Huntington’s dark basement, actually showed the bounty of the San Marino Ranch fruits and berries and veggies and herbs quite well. Which Henry Huntington was so very proud! There was a large basement pantry that was filled with hundreds of mason jars filled with Ranch fruit jams (Raspberry, Loganberry, & Strawberry), Fruit Jellies (Grape), San Marino Ranch Orange Blossom Honey, & pickled Ranch vegetables like cucumbers, okra, carrots, cauliflower, Bread and Butter pickles,etc. These bottled Ranch treasures were given away to friends & family (especially at Christmas time); also given to employees of the Ranch (San Marino Ranch Orange blossom Honey was a treat). The Huntingtons took these treats back with them to NYC. In the Autumn, they traveled from the San Marino Ranch back to their mansion on 57th St. New York City. They filled their “San Marino I & the San Marino II” (private railroad cars) to the brim with wooden crates filled with jams, honey, & jellies. Also, crates of oranges & avocados called “Alligator pears” protected by shredded wood & wrapped lovingly in tissue paper.
The Huntington’s had a gigantic Wine Cellar down in the basement. It ran the entire length of the south side of the Huntington Mansion. There were small cement wine rooms about 10 ft. x 10 ft. wide were built for each of Huntington wines. There was Claret, Chabis, Hock, Burgundy, Riesling, French Champagne, & California Champagne. Mr. Huntington also liked to show guests the servant quarters & servants dining room on his house tour. He wanted to show off how neat & tidy the servants were. He was proud of them & all of their hard work & often complimented them for a job well done. Mr. Huntington felt it didn’t matter what job you had in life, it was very important that you worked hard & did the best job you could. Nora must have ran a tight ship, if he did check out downstairs & show it off to the guests. The very last thing that was on Mr. Huntington’s house tour was “The Blue Boy” in the large Drawing Room, Alfonso informs us.
Getting Ready for a Huntington “Entertainment”:
This special luncheon in February of 1922 for Admiral Edward W. Ederle & his chatty wife, Mrs. Eberle. Mr. Huntington was very excited about their guests. While his valet/butler, Alphonso Gomez, was helping him to dress, Mr. Huntington mentioned that the Admiral had a very prestigious job. He leads the main ship, the “California” of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, docked down in Long Beach, CA.
In Alfonso Gomez interviews, he mentions that everyone (the servant staff) got along really well at the Huntington Mansion: “These were the days we most enjoyed at the Ranch with the Huntingtons”. All the staff was excited to please them both. The servant staff was all hired because we did our jobs very well & to Mr. & Mrs. Huntington’s specifications”. Alfonso had previously been an excellent stewart on a Cunard cruise ship. “But these are the days, in which I saw everyone’s talents really dance. It was like listening to a beautiful orchestra entertain with all the different instruments really playing well together & harmonizing.” That is a very poetic description of the Huntington’s life. That all of the Huntington house staff wanted to please the Huntington, show their loyalty and great work ethic is impressive. Where in Carrie & Burke Holladays (HEH’s sister) residence they couldn’t keep their staff, often they had no cook or no maid.
The Huntington’s were “In-Residence” at their ranch mansion for several months of the year. Usually from January to June, sometimes longer into the summer. Some years, a longer extended period. Edwards & Belle Huntington owned several other mansions, 3 in New York State: 2 East 57th St. NYC Mansion, Throggs Neck “The Homestead” Huntington estate in Westchester Co., NY & Camp Pine Knot on Racquette Lake in Adirondack Mts. They also leased Chateau Beauregard near Paris, (1913-1923) & of course, San Marino Ranch. The Henry E. Huntingtons really had 5 mansions & estates that they lived in throughout the year.
So the day of a party or “entertainment” (Mrs. Huntington liked to call them) was busy. Once the maids finished their chores, they were asked to go to the Mrs. Huntington’s Cutting Garden (located just west of the Bowling Alley & the Huntington Mansion. Then, they walked to the “rose house” (hot house) to fetch mass quantities of the flowers & roses for the occasion. The 3 Huntington Hot houses were located east of the Library Building. The entertainment, probably a St. Valentine’s theme they would have used: red roses, or pink & white flowers & roses. Then, the task of trimming the leaves off the the flowers to make the large flower arrangements for the Loggia and the entire Huntington Mansion.
In her travels, Mrs. Arabella Huntington was used to staying at 5-star fancy hotels. Like the Paris Ritz, the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, & 5th Ave. Hotel in NYC. In fact, she actually lived “in-residence” for months at a time at these particular hotels while they renovating the Huntington mansions. These establishments when one enters their large foyer, greets the guests with gigantic flower arrangements. These arrangements usually had 200-300 or more flowers in each flower arrangements in very large vessel! Mrs. Huntington wanted these “show stoppers” in her mansion & loggia to make it look beautiful. Also, to show off the lovely flowers from the San Marino Ranch.
Mrs. Huntington was partial to fragrant flowers. In the winter, what was in bloom at the Ranch? Tulips, fragrant Roses (pink, lavender, white & red), Casa blanca white lilies (white), Lilies (orange or bright pink), Orchids (pink, purples & white), Gardenias (white), Stock (lavender, pink & white), Hyacinth (purple), Freesia, Purple Iris, Peony (hot pink & light pink), Tuberose (white), Lilac (Lavender), & Sweet Pea, (lavender, pink), & Jasmine.
Mr. Hertrich, Head Gardener was also called the “Superintendent of the Ranch”. He was the boss of all servants & employees inside & outside of the Huntington Mansion. They were the gardeners, ranch hands, aviary men, & greenhouse men. So for the “entertainments” at the Huntington’s Ranch, Mr. Hertrich was in charge of the flowers, picked from the Ranch gardens & hothouses. Mrs. Huntington had Mr. Hertrich build a special cutting flower garden just for these occasions (where the Huntington Herb Garden is now). Mr. Hertrich asked the girls working the mansion [the maids] to help out which they happily did.
The mansion staff were all willing to pitch in when needed, Alfonzo the Huntington’s Head Butler stated. There was always something wonderful going on in Huntington’s grand kitchen. The cooks always had a large pot of soup on the stove (actually the cooks had 3 stoves: one electric, one old fashioned fire & one gas.) A large project was always in the works in the kitchen like making ranch homemade orange marmalade, putting up fruits & vegetables, or getting ready for one of Mrs. Huntington’s entertainments. They also made their own homemade ice cream (in the summer), or homemade root beer, desserts usually from scratch. The servants justed always helped out head cook & housekeeper, Miss Nora Larsen; “she [Mrs. Huntington] was really generous in giving treats to the staff when they helped her out in a pinch”. The Huntington’s Staff Dining Room was alway filled with treats at Mrs. Huntington’s request.
If Nora was overloaded for a entertainment, Nora would inform Mr. & Mrs. Huntington. They would hire “extra help”. Nora & a team of kitchen staff helped “put up” vegetables. There was pickled cucumbers, bread and butter pickles, pickled okra, & pickled French beans with French Tarragon probably. All kinds of vegetables from the 2 large vegetable gardens at the Ranch. These little culinary treasures would have made a wonderful “relish tray” of snacks on the Dining room table, also. Mrs. Huntington also treated her guests to bowls of Virginia Peanuts & Jordan Almonds.
In wealthy homes in the early 1900’s, it was a traditional to make up their own “house” tea blend: A special tea “Orange Pekoe” was blended for Mrs. Huntington in the Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch. It was made from a blend of Indian tea & Ceylon tea, which made a delicious”Orange Pekoe” Tea. They also could have made a citrus tea blend by adding orange peel or a rose tea by Victorian rose petals. Mrs. Huntington would have enjoyed that, also. The Huntington Hotel/Ritz Carlton in Pasadena used to have a amazing Christmas Tea Blend. It had black tea, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cloves, & allspice. I wonder it that Christmas blend was a throw-back directly related to Mr. Henry Huntington & his orange trees.
Documents:HEH Coll. HEH 8/9 uncat (San Marino Ranch papers & Grocery receipts, & veggie gardens & Parmalee Dohrmann invoices); HEH Coll. MS 19 1-18 uncat (Alfonso Gomez interviews; HEH’s valet & Huntington’s head butler; NYC mansion Huntington tea blend); HEH Coll. HEH 38/11 uncat [No. 2 Huntington Mansion grocery lists, Huntington mansion tea blend “Orange Pekoe”, Huntington Mansion Inventory Book -Huntington Coat Room & Victrola record player]; HEH Coll. MS 12 1-30 uncat (Chateau Beauregard papers); HEH Coll MS 10968 uncat (E. Burke Holladay Journals)