Mrs. Arabella Huntington and her Southern Charm

by Nancy Armitage

Drinking Southern Sweet Tea or homemade Lemonade on the Southern veranda or Huntington’s Loggia. Mrs. Huntington owned two of these “Peacock Chairs”,(above) which the Huntingtons used on the Ranch Loggia (covered lanai or porch) at the San Marino Ranch. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

In everything she did, Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington had great “Southern Charm”. In her mansion’s decor, her tablescapes, her Southern hospitality, her flowers, her Southern food, & her gracious Southern entertainment style. The way is which she did everything to make life wonderful for her two Huntington husbands & her son, Archer Huntington. Her job was to make her family content, happy, & well fed. She was married to Collis P. Huntington (1884-1900) & Henry E. “Edwards” Huntington (1913-1924).

Gorgeous Pink Hibiscus flower, a very showy large flower. It attracts butterflies & hummingbirds. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

You can’t take the “south” out of a Southern women, it doesn’t matter where she lives. Mrs. Arabella Huntington was a perfect Southern hostess & entertainer. Always making sure her husband(s) & their guests & houseguests were as comfortable as possible. In New York City , the Collis Huntingtons sometimes entertained 24-30 guests for sit-down formal dinners in the “East Salon”; more guests for receptions & “at-home” teas.

At the Collis Huntington’s Nob Hill Mansion at 1020 California Street in San Francisco they entertained even larger amounts of people. In the 1890’s, the Collis & Arabella Huntington hosted sit-down multi-course formal dinners for up to 110 guests in their ballroom (also called “Music & Picture Gallery”). The Huntington large art collections hung on the walls salon style. Sadly, that art collections no longer exists because of the Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire in 1906.

At the San Marino Ranch in the 1920’s, Mrs. Arabella Huntington had a more intimate style of entertainment. The H. E. Huntingtons (“Edwards & Belle”) most often invited 6-12 guests. They would entertain for formal luncheons (most likely 4-courses) starting with a “cocktail” (fruit or seafood cocktail ), soup or salad, a entree course, & a dessert course. Also, formal dinners with 6-12 guests (6 or more courses). They also had “Sundays at the Ranch”, a festive entertainments for 20-50 or more guests.

The fruit or seafood cocktail was served in a showy footed crystal or silver bowl with ice packed underneath the bowl for each guest. The large cocktail bowl had room at the bottom to pack crushed ice & another smaller bowl inserted over the ice with the seafood (to keep the seafood iced cold). They served Seafood Cocktail like cooked jumbo shrimp or crabmeat cocktail served cocktail sauce or Crab Louis Sauce. Another way to happily serve the great abundance of exotic fruit is a Fruit Cocktail. They had so many fruits and Berries to choose from (mango, kiwi fruit, strawberries, & loganberries) of the Huntington’s San Marino Ranch.

We know that Mrs. Huntington loved pink & white decor for her tablescapes & 50% of her fine china plateware was gold & white with pink roses. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

First, Arabella (Yarrington Worsham) married Collis Huntington (of the great “Big 4” railroad fame). They married in July of 1884 at her 54th St. mansion in NYC. Collis & Arabella’s honeymoon was at the Huntington Estate at Throgg’s Neck NY on the shore, they just purchased 400 acres that grew to 800 acres, then 1000 acres. They named it, “The Homestead” it was waterfront property in Throgg’s Neck, Westchester Co., NY. The Long Island Sound on one side of the property & the East Bay of NYC on the other side. They used this lovely peaceful large estate for weekends & summertime. Document: HEH Coll. MS 37/1-18 uncat (Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington Surrogate Court property papers) Nancy Note: In these papers it was revealed to that Mrs. Huntington owned 1000’s of acres of lands (not all next to each other) that was surrounding the Huntington “Homestead” property at Throggs Neck in Westchester Co, NYC but including City Island, Fort Schuyler, Old Ferry Point, & numerous plots around the Huntington “Homestead” estate.

A Southern dish of “Shrimp & Grits” (which is Sauteed shrimp on cheese grits with a lemon wine sauce & baby chives).

Arabella was the mother of Archer M. Huntington, who was born in 1870 in NYC. She home schooled him at first & then he went off to school. He was quite the scholar learning many languages. She was a typical Southern mother, at times hovering too much over Archer. They had their tiffs but they loved each other very much. She held the purse strings with him; he got a monthly allowance, which made it difficult for him to build his “Spanish Museum” people called it. But, Arabella was amazingly generous with him too, like buying him a very expensive Velasquez painting for him in 1904, for his new museum, Hispanic Society of America in NYC.

The Eiffel Tower at dusk Paris France; where Henry E. Huntington & Arabella Huntington got married & spent their honeymoon. They stayed at the Hotel Bristol in Paris (as a home base) for 5 months June to October in 1913. . Then going off for a side trip to Lausanne, Switzerland on Lake Geneva & leading up to the great Swiss Alps mountains, close to Genoa & Italy, too..

In 1913, after Mr. & Mrs. Henry E. & Arabella Huntington got married in Paris, France, he wrote a lovely letter to his sister, Caroline Holladay, stating how kind Belle was to him:

“My Dear Sister, Before You recieve this I expect I shall be married. The ceremony to be at the American Church [Paris] Wednesday Noon, will then leave for Lausanna [e] Switzerland. Guess Archer, Helen [Huntington] & Clara [Huntington von Hatzfeldt] will arrive tomorrow. Mrs. Stone is with Bell, & in addition to there three will be– only Mr. Varnun, [HEH’s personal secretary], Jenny McLain, & Mai De Bourin [Sp.] I will cable you after the ceremony. My address will still be c/o Morgan, Hargin [?] (HEH’s lawyers in Paris). I cannot tell you how happy I am my dear sister & I hope to make up for all I have lost & again I have a home such I never had. Bell is so good & kind to me. And I know she will make my life a happy one. She is now suffering from a hard cold caught yesterday. With very much love to you ones & all em [?] Your Affectionally, Brother, ” Document: HEH Coll. MS 656 Box 131 (Correspondences) (Letter to Caroline Holladay from Henry E. “Edwards: Huntington.) This letter just shows how “over the moon” Edwards was to marrying Belle. He expresses in Arabella’s Southern way, she was taking really great care of him as his new wife.

When I think of Arabella Huntington, I visualize the very bossy Emily Gilmore from Netflix, “Gilmore Girls”. Emily in her misguided ways really wanted to have “everything just perfect for her family”.

At the San Marino Ranch, even the Huntington’s Head Butler, Alfonso Gomez & the Head Housekeeper, Miss Nora Larsen (SMR) both stated that Mrs. Huntington wanted “everything just so” to please her husband “Edwards” (HEH). A Southern woman wants everything just perfect for her husband, her family, her house guests, & her luncheon guests & dinner guests.

She lived in several southern states: Arabella Yarrington was born into a large family (6 children) on June 1, 1850 Union Springs, near Mobile, Alabama. Her family moved north to Richmond, Virginia in her teenage years. It was said she lived in New Orleans: the Huntington’s butler, Alfonso Gomez (SMR) stated that Mrs. Arabella Huntington & her private social secretary and friend, Miss Caroline M. Campbell “went to school together”. They went to high school in New Orleans when they were teenagers. Most likely, a finishing school or Catholic High school after the Civil War. She lived and visited Huntington, West Virginia & Newport News, VA many times.

This beautiful Southern Mansion was called “Pleasant View Manor” in Huntington, West Virginia. Collis & Arabella Huntington spent time there. It was home to Delos W. & Mary Emmons (purchased by Collis Huntington; and given Emmons who was his brother-in-law). Photo Credit: Special Coll. Marshall University Library; Article: Lost Huntington by James E. Casto in Herald Dispatch newspaper on Jan. 23, 2014.

In the 1880-1890’s, Collis & Arabella Huntington would travel by train to visit his ship company: Newport News & Shipyards in Newport News, VA. Collis was a ship builder of great big ships. Collis & Arabella would visit Huntington, West Virginia where their family lived. The city “Huntington, West Virginia” was named after Arabella’s husband, Collis P. Huntington. Collis & Belle would sometimes stay or visit with family at this lovely yellow Southern mansion called “Pleasant View Manor in Huntington, West Virginia. On every level or story of this beautiful mansion, there was a wrap-around Southern porch for incredible views up on a hill. This grand Southern mansion was originally Collis Huntingtons, located at Staunton Rd. & 31st Street; he gave it to his brother-in-law: Delos W. Emmons & his wife, Mary (Collis’ sister).

Delos helped subdivide the large 434-arce plantation. Collis & Arabella Huntington also owned 1000’s of acres of land in Texas & in Kentucky where they set up Arabella’s brothers to live on ranches & horse farms, & pecan farms. They would often take train trips across the United States (from NYC to SF & south to Los Angeles to Texas). To, visit Arabella’s brothers, sisters, & family in these states. On Collis & Arabella Huntington’s private railroad train car, they would often visit Savannah Georgia & New Orleans & Atlanta & Texas were favorite stops. Document: Herald-Dispatch Newspaper article: “Lost Huntington: Pleasant View Manor” by James E. Casto June 23, 2014

Two houses that Arabella Huntington owned & lived in really spoke “the South” to me. One was at “Pleasant View Manor” (above) in Huntington, West Virginia with a several wrap around veranda porches & 3-story yellow & white mansion. It had 2 sets of 4 Roman columns in front & a widow’s walk on the roof.

Also, the H. E. Huntington’s Guest Cottage on the San Marino Ranch. The Guest Cottage was built in 1916, it was descripted like a small Antebellum Mansion or a small White House with 4 pillars at the front door. It reminds me of the South & Scarlett O’Hara’s southern mansion in the movie “Gone with the Wind”, which would have made Arabella very happy. The Guest Cottage had 4-Roman columns pillars, a large veranda (great for entertaining on a beautiful day), large half moon driveway with large green grass area ; inside the Guest Cottage it has 6 bedrooms including servant staff rooms, Great Hall, & 5-6 fireplaces & kitchenette, “Edwards” (HEH) & “Belle” Huntington’s used this large Guest Cottage for entertaining. Document: HEH Coll. HEH MS 38/6 uncat (Affidavits- George Hapgood)

Gorgeous hot pink/magenta azealeas blooming in the springtime.

Southern Trees & Flowers: to remind Arabella of her dear South & her Southern charm ways. At the San Marino Ranch, they had a massive Magnolia tree tuck up against to the Huntington Mansion on the west side by their Dining-Room. Other Southern flowers were hot-pink azaleas & stunning rhododendrons, with multi-color camellias (pink , red, & white), 100’s of fragrant roses (some French roses too), & fragrant white gardenias. One could see white peacocks & blue peacocks float by. They also had many large pink & yellow hibiscus, & 1000’s fragrant pink roses & white roses in a rose hot house.

Speaking of white roses, Arabella helped support the “White Rose Society” in the 1880’s. This amazing society helped young innocent girls get off the steamships from Europe to America safely; the girls not to be bothered by unsavory men who wanted to take advantage of these innocent young ladies.

Fragrant white roses, a favorite of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington.

At the Huntington’s “Homestead” estate at Throggs Neck, Westchester Co., NY, Arabella grew all different kinds of stunning flowers. She also grew violets. Belle Huntington & her son, Archer, joked that she could start a violet farm if she wanted, she had so many violets. Mrs. Huntington’s hothouses at “The Homestead” were filled with 1000’s Lilies of the Valley, fragrant Roses, & Azaleas, also. Her grand Conservatory hot house was Victorian in style.

White Magnolia tree, a Southern tradition. At the San Marino Ranch, a huge Magnolia tree stands proudly next to the Huntington Mansion.. Now the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

At the Collis Huntington Mansion at No. 2 E. 57th St. NYC, Mrs. Arabella Huntington composes a lovely menu with lots of Southern Charm added.

This Fancy French multi-course dinner menu showcases Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s Southern Sensibilities : (No. 2. NYC mansion) on January 23, 1900 Dinner for 18 men with 12-Course Elegant Menu:

Huites [Oysters], Consomme Tortue [Turtle Soup], Relish dish: Celery, Queen Olives, Amandes [Toasted and Salted Almonds], Bass with Sauce Mousseline (Seafood Mousse with Seabass), Selle d’ Agueau [Salted Lamb Roast] Haricot Verts [French Green Beans], Pommes Hollandaise [Scalloped Potatoes with a lemony Hollandaise Sauce], Terrapin [Turtle], Sambon aux Epinard [Ham with Spinach], Game: Canvas Back Duck with Orange Jelly & Hominy, French Style Salad [greens or spinach leaves & bacon with Garlic croutons with Bacon Vinaigrette], Glace: Ices & Ice Cream molded, Gateaux (Fancy French Cake), [French Chocolate] Bonbons (Chocolate Truffles), Hothouse grapes & Strawberries & Chantilly Cream with Cafe [Coffee].

Hot house tomatoes with garden fresh cucumbers, butter lettuce, & spinach from the garden.

Even in the 2 large vegetable gardens (San Marino Ranch) alludes to Arabella’s Southern sensibility. While she lived with her husband, Henry E. Huntington in California from 1913-1924 part of the year. At the Ranch, they grew all sorts of “Southern Vegetables”: Beets (Egyptian), Okra Green & “White Velvet” okra [for pickled okra & fried okra], White Navy Beans [Navy Bean Soup], Kentucky Wonder Beans, Brussel Sprouts, Southern Chicory, Collard Greens, Sweet Corn [Corn on the cob at Sundays at the Ranch BBQ], Butter Beans, Parsnips (Turrooted), Sweet Potatoes [Sweet Potato Pie], Rhubarb [Rhubarb & Raspberry Pie], Salsify called “Oyster Plant” (in the south it is usually fried) , Swiss Chard (Green), & Turnips & Turnip Greens. (Snowball) Document: HEH Coll. MS uncat (San Marino Ranch papers; Book 6/3 of HEH Coll. MS 6/2-14 uncat (SMR Papers) located at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

I found a recipe for “Oyster Plant Soup” (Salisfy). It was in one of Mr. H. E. Huntington rare books called Castelar Creche Cookbook (1922). This cookbook had several Huntington family recipes, which I was excited to find.

Oyster Plant Soup [Salisfy] (1922)

Scrape one dozen roots of oyster plant, cut into thin slices and put into 1 qt. of cold water. Bring quickly to boil, simmer gently until very tender, then add 1 qt. of milk; rub together 2 T. butter, and 2 T. flour, & stir into hot soup [to thicken]. Stir until boiling. Add 1 t. salt, dash of cayenne pepper, & 1 t. onion juice. -Christy Payne Document: Castelar Creche Cookbook (1922)

Delicious Southern Fried Okra with Spicy Mayonnaise Dressing & Ranch Dressing. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage at Lady & Sons, Savannah, GA

I found quite a few invoices that illustrate Mrs. Huntington’s Southern style of Entertaining. Arabella Huntington at the Huntington’s Ranch, she would send out to the East to buy special Virginia Peanuts (very large & very crunchy) & Virginia Ham for some of her tea parties & Sundays at the Ranch.

A Southern Dinner Menu could have been Southern Fried Chicken, with Mashed Potatoes & Giblet Gravy. Served with Cole Slaw, Ham Biscuits with Dijon Mustard, Green Salad with Buttermilk Ranch Dressing with a groaning table of Desserts of Red Velvet Cakes & Peanut Butter Pies, & Berry Pies, or Myrtleberry Pie, Iced Southern Pecan Cookies with Huntington Mansion “Honey Spice Bars” (tastes like a iced brownie/chocolate truffle bite- iced with Royal Icing).

Mrs. Huntington was very partial to pink roses.

Arabella Huntington was a Southern pink girl (she loved pink roses). At the San Marino Ranch, they planted 100’s of 1000’s of pink rose plants just to please Mrs. Huntington. I found handfuls of rose invoices for the Huntingtons Formal Rose Garden. Just in January of 1914 alone, these pink roses were purchased: 220 “Mrs. George Shawyer” rose plants (gorgeous Bridal pink to Hot pink color), 100 “Mademoiselle Cecile Brunner” roses (salmon-pink color) 280 plus 65 more “General MacArthur” roses (“Best rose ever” in rose catalogs- Hot pink to red rose) & in April 1916 – 2 “Gainsborough” Roses (flesh pink & rich fragrance) & hundreds of “Pink Killarney” roses (Light Bridal Pink) were bought, also. In September of 1914, more pink roses were ordered: 280 plus 65 more “Gen’l MacArthur” roses are ordered.

French roses ordered at the same time: 150 of each of these French pink rose plants of “Maiserin, “Mademoiselle Segond Weber” (bridal pink-salmon rose), romantic “Juliet” rose (pink rose with yellow reverse) & Ulrich Brunner (hot pink with a darker pink in middle. Also, 100 plants of Lyon rose (coral pink with yellow highlights), & baby Cecile Brunner pink roses, also. Document: HEH Coll. HEH 6/15 (uncat). at the Huntington Library San Marino, CA

If only we knew where Mrs. Huntington was going in this photograph?? She could be in NYC, Paris, or London to meet the Queen & King of England. In her diamond tiara (50 large diamonds), 6-strand white pearl necklace, large pearl earrings, & long beaded and sequined black gown. The photo was dated 1906; she was 56 years old and also a widow at the time. Collis had died in 1900, she was very sad. In the early 1900’s, we know she spent a good deal of that year in Paris, France. She most likely stayed at the Ritz Paris or Hotel Continental or Hotel Bristol in Paris. Photo credit: Original photo at Hispanic Society of America, NYC.

Mrs. Arabella Huntington was a Southern “Pearl girl”; oh my word, was she a pearl girl. She purchased & wore many strands of very expensive white pearls, baroque pearls, black pearls, seed pearls, & Tahitian pearls. On Mrs. Huntington jewelry collection list which was 120 items. I found pages & pages of pearl earrings, pearl bracelets, & elaborate pearl necklaces. She joked to her friend and daughter-in-law, Leslie Huntington that her large pearl necklace was worth a King’s ransom. At the Syracuse University it states on a jewelry invoice that the 6-strand of pearls cost her $300,000.00 . In photographs of Mrs. Arabella Huntington, we see many different length of strands of fine pearls: a 3-strand of pearls, 6-strand necklace of pearls, & extra long pearl necklaces, & short choker necklaces (1890’s).

Henry “Edwards” & Arabella “Belle” Huntington were honored at a huge party at the California Club in downtown Los Angeles, California. The “entertainment” was on Monday, February 23, 1914, 100 guests were invited of their family & friends. Their dear friends: Dr. & Mrs. Bryants & Mr. & Mrs. Wm. Dunns were the hosts. Arabella wore a 6-strand pearl elegant necklace for one of her first parties in Los Angeles as the wife of Mr. Henry E. Huntington . This elaborate pearl necklace was described by Edwards (HEH) daughter-in-law, Leslie, “that the pearls were as big as her thumb & that it cost a ransom”. In Arabella’s portrait by Birley, Mrs. Huntington wears many strands of very large black jet or pearls or other gemstones. Document: Syracuse University has the jewelry receipt of the large pearl necklace worth $300,000.00.

An intimate tea for two, the rose is called “Double Delight”. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

Arabella loved to entertain, especially elegant & intimate tea parties at her massive mansions. At the San Marino Ranch, she loved Southern Sweet Tea, Homemade Sparkling Lemonade, & the Huntingtons ranch kitchen even made their own Homemade Root Beer. She enjoyed sipping tea on her Loggia at the Huntington Mansion; & the Southern feeling of the grand veranda of the Guest House at the Ranch. Maybe a Kentucky Mint Julep at her “entertainments”, I’m not sure.

When drinking hot tea, a special blend of India tea & Ceylon Tea, which made up Orange Pekoe tea. She loved a intimate tea (2-4) in the Small Drawing Room or formal luncheons with 12 guests & formal dinners for 12 guests, too. Mrs. Huntington always had a beautiful tablescape filled with pretty flowers, elegant fine bone china plateware, & crystal glasses on a damask or lace tablecloth.

Whieldenware Pink tea plates with a pheasant in the middle and rose flowers. With gold on the edge of the plate.

At Mrs. Arabella Huntington No. 2 East 57th Street, NYC residence, there were many receipts for what I called “Soldier Teas”. In 1919, all the American soldiers were coming home from WWII. There was 3 teas at No. 2 that year. Mr. and Mrs. Huntington were not there to host the soldiers, but they had the teas anyways. The Huntingtons were “in-residence” almost the entire year at the ranch in 1919.

Mrs. Huntington often had “At-Home” teas on Tuesdays, for family & friends. Tuesday was her “At-home” tea day at her New York City mansion & her San Francisco mansion (before 1906).

In 1919, at No. 2 they rented 25 chairs, ordered Tea Sandwiches made out of Roast beef, Ham, Chicken Salad, & Bread & Butter. A groaning tables of sweets: Fancy French Napoleons, “Petit Fours” small iced cakes, sublime Parisian Macaroons, Seasonal Berry Pies, Fancy Tea Cakes, & lots of Cookies. They ordered a lot of assorted French, American and English cookies: French Petit Buerres, Lorna Doones, Arrowroot, American Vanilla Wafers, 5 o’clock Cookies/Biscuits, & many others. These were fancy teas that welcome the soldiers back to their homeland-America. She want her the Huntington household & to say “thank you” for their service to the United States & for keeping the freedoms of all the Americans. Even when the Henry & Arabella Huntington were not “In-residence” in NYC at the time, they still had these teas. Mrs. Huntington had a kind & thoughtful Southern heart. She instructed her Head Butlers; Mr. Angus McGillvary & Mr. Alfonso Gomez, that every soldier should go off with a sandwich, to go with a cup of coffee, some money, & coins.

An example of a Victorian Hot house, Mrs. Huntington had a very large Victorian style hothouse at the Huntington “Homestead” estate at Throggs Neck in Westchester Co. NY.

She loved her gardens of flowers at San Marino Ranch & the Collis P. & Arabella Huntington Estate (later Arabella & Edwards Huntington) “Homestead” at Throgg’s Neck. At “Homestead”, they had a formal garden like Versailles Palace in France. She had a large conservatory at their San Francisco Nob Hill mansions & “Homestead” with the Lath House & hot houses, also on the San Marino Ranch. She had romantic gazebos & rose arbors in many of her mansions like TN, 54th St., SMR, & “The Homestead” at Throggs Neck. Book: Art of Wealth by Bennett

Was there a rose named after “Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington”? I’m not sure , but I did do some research and find several “Arabella” roses. With different dates but most of them are pink roses. A rose named after Arabella Huntington could be the “Arabella 1917” by Schilling Bright pink and Carmine pink. Photo credit & journal: Nancy Armitage

In the Gilded Age & Edwardian times, often, wealthy American ladies & gentlemen had roses named after them. For Mrs. Huntington’s formal rose garden, the head garden of the Huntington’s ranch, Mr. Hertrich order 50 different kinds of roses in May of 1916: (20) Miss “Alice Roosevelt” (bright pink rose), (50) “Mademoiselle A. Marmotel”, “Mrs. O. H. Kahn”, “Mademoiselle Von Andre”, (40) “Mrs. Dexter”, “Dorothy Duggan”, & “Katherine Livingstone”. Even (10) “President Taft” or “William H. Taft” roses, a beautifully blended upright & full rose of pink & gold. But, I never found a rose name after Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington on these numerous rose invoices. I did found several “Arabelle” roses, though. Document: HEH Collection HEH 6/15 uncat (SMR papers) at Huntington Library

Pink roses: “Electron” & Pink-tipped roses: “Lyn Anderson” & “Cherry Parfait”, with “Perfect Moment” (Pink-tipped withOrange & yellow rose). Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

I always wondered if there was a “Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington” rose ? I researched “Arabella” roses & this is what I found: there were 4 “Arabella” roses that the Huntingtons could have purchased & named after Mrs. Huntington: “Arabella” (1845) white, yellow & pink multi-color roses (it sounds similar to the “Peace” rose to me – too early ). “Arabella” (1917) bred in Germany, a bright pink & carmine pink rose -this one is most-likely. “Arabella (1846) Bred by unknown, color was pink & blush outer petals- too early but maybe import from Europe. “Arabella” (? unknown date) Hybrid noisette with the color of pink & lilac – it is a possibility.

Arabella Yarrington Worsham look like a elegant Southern belle to me . Off the shoulder dress with bow in the front and with a cameo necklace tied in a ribbon. Original photo Hispanic Society of American in New York City, New York

Every Southern girl loves everything French, especially Marie Antoinette furniture & things. Queen Marie Antoinette was married to King Louis XVI. Arabella Huntington was one of those girly- girls; in every one of her collections she owned, they were all French-themed. She favored Louis XV & Louis XVI furniture, French artwork paintings, French sculpture and Marie Antoinette chandeliers. She loved French plates ware (Limoges, Sevres, & Haviland), French fabrics of Brocade, Jacquard, & Toile & delicious French foods in the Gilded Age. In every one of her mansions, she decorated in the French style: (No. 2,NYC , “Homestead”, Throgg’s Neck Westchester Co. NYC , San Marino Ranch, & San Francisco, Chateau Beauregard, & 2 mansions in Paris).

Mrs. Huntington had so many flowers to choose from for her mansion flower arrangements. Roses, hydrangas, stock, orchids, berries, mums, or peonies, too.

Mrs. Huntington’s tablescapes with very important to her. Polite conversation & bountiful hospitality is the Southern way. In each of the Huntington Mansions, she had huge “Butlers Pantry” filled with 1000’s of plates for entertaining. In San Marino Ranch, Arabella had 42 cabinets filled with mostly French, English, & American plateware. She loved Royal Crown Derby, Limoges, Minton, Dresden, Coalport, Copland & Garret, Whieldenware pattern named “Pink Pheasant”, Homer Laughlin, Haviland, Sevres, Dutch Deftware, Haviland, Blue Transferware (also Green transferware& Red transferware). Even festive themes came in to her entertaining style: Pink Tea, Violet Tea, or Royal Tea.

Royal Crown Derby was one of Mrs. Huntington’s fancy plate collections, we just don’t know which pattern

Of these many plate wares at the San Marino Ranch, many were purchased at Parmalee-Dohrmann in Los Angeles, California. Om January and February in 1914,, Mr. & Mrs. Huntington purchased 3000 plates from Parmalee-Dohrmann. Mrs. Huntington had 25 different patterns in French Haviland plates alone. Some of the patterns had 150 pieces in each pattern. Mostly, her Haviland sets were gold & white scalloped plates with pink roses. She also collected French Sevres & Limoges (gold & white) plate ware. Mrs. Huntington collected many Blue Transferware dishes, which is quick a Southern tradition. She also had many patterns of Homer Laughlin plateware (founded in 1871 in West Virginia), especially the “Angelus Rose” white & gold with pink roses; which came out with a new pattern every year, but still matched all her plates.

Beautiful Botanical “Cabinet Plates” are a southern tradition. This is one of the “presidential plates” used at the White House. President & Mrs. James Polk used it & it was made by Edouard Honore. Some say it is the very prettiest plate ware at the White House. The band of color on the rim is sometimes lime green or turquoise. All sorts of lovely flowers graced the plates: pink roses, yellow marigold, pink geraniums, & pink sweet peas.
Tea in the afternoon, sipping a cold drink in the garden Victorian gazebo. Amongst the pink geraniums or pelargoniums. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

In the Victorian days, they called afternoon tea: “At-home” teas. A calling card was the invitation, anyone the hostess met she could invite by giving her calling card away. On the hostess’s calling card, was printed her name, a day of the week & time; like “First Monday 4-6 pm. meaning the First Monday of every month, she would host a lovely tea. To decorate her Southern tea table, Mrs. Huntington adored pink & white roses; 100’s of pink & white roses planted at her many mansions but especially at the San Marino Ranch. Yes, she was a Southern girl through & through.

Southern Sweet Tea abundantly sweeten with abundant amounts of sugar.

Southern Food on New Years for Good Luck (January 1, every year)

A southern tradition was to make Southern Food for good Luck for the whole year. Items that are round too are for money and prosperity. The list of Southern food is long and delicious like Black Eyed Peas, Pickled Beet Salad, Artichoke & Spinach Dip, Roquefort Cheese Ball, Rice & Beans.

Southern Spicy Pimento Cheese Recipe

A very Southern tradition is Pimento cheese sandwiches. This is a great blended cheese to make petit tea sandwiches or spread on a water cracker for a canape. Mrs. Huntington in her mansions always bought large crocks of McClaren’s Cheese (one was sharp cheddar cheese & the other was Roquefort cheese). To make pimento cheese she could have started with the McClaren’s cheddar cheese. Always place tea sandwiches or canapes on a doily-lined silver tray, Mrs. Huntington would have used her Gorham silver trays. Garnish with minced chives & serve with cocktail napkins.

4 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 oz. cream cheese, whipped

1/2 c. mayonnaise

onion or garlic powder or minced garlic

4 oz. pimentos, chopped (from a jar, drained)

celery seed

salt & pepper

1/2 t. cayenne pepper

1 t. Ortego green chilis (from can)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients. Spread on bread slices to make tea sandwiches, cut off crust of bread. Also you can spread spicy pimento cheese on crackers to make a quick canape. Recipe by Nancy Armitage

Some of Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s Southern Specialites throughout all her mansions & her travels thru United States:

SMR: San Marino Ranch

No. 2: No. 2 E. 57th St. NYC,

SF: 1020 California St. San Francisco,

TN: “The Homestead” Huntington estate Throggs Neck, Westchester Co., NY

CPK: Great Huntington Camp at Camp Pine Knot on Raquette Lake, in the Adirondack Mts, in upper state New York

NOLA: New Orleans, LA

KENT: Kentucky

VIR: Virginia

WVIR: West Virginia

Oysters as a 1st course: raw “Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce” or fried oysters with garlic hot sauce (NOLA, NY, SF, & SMR)

Beverages: Champagne Punch (Huntington “Ostego” RR train car), Southern Sweet Tea, Luzianne Tea (1902 based in New Orleans), Christmas Egg Nog, “Huntington Special” (TN -a red cosmopolitan cocktail in the 1920’s), Homemade Root Beer (SMR), Victorian Sassafras Cordial (1899) Homemade Lemonade with soda water (SMR)

Southern Libations: Champagne Punch (RR train car), Southern Rum Punch like Chatham Artillery Punch (Savannah GA -in 1792, George Washington drank it), Old Green Chartreuse (Southern, No, 2), Sazarac appetif (No. 2, a New Orleans appetif), Mint Juleps (KENT, VIR) Victorian Sassafras Cordial (1899)

Soup: “Potage a la Tortue” – Green Turtle Soup (NOLA & NYC & SF Huntington Mansions) Shrimp & Chicken Gumbo (Southern ,NOLA, & No. 2), Southern Shrimp & Oysters Gumbo (Nola), Throgg’s Neck Red Clam Chowder (TN & No. 2), Classic Virginia Brunswick Stew (VIR), Virginia Peanut Soup (VIR), Oyster Stew (Christmas No. 2 and Oneonta I private rr car, Virginia Ham (No. 2 & SMR)

Southern Relishes: Queen Olives, Virginia Peanuts (SMR & No. 2), Pickled Okra (SMR), Pickled French Beans (SMR), Chow Chow (No. 2 – cabbage, onions, peppers, & green tomatoes with kick of jalapeno peppers)

Appetizers: Roquefort Canapes, Canapes Washington (No. 2) ,Pimento Cheese Canapes on water crackers (No 2, TN,SMR), Cheese puffs, or Cheese Sticks with cayenne pepper (TN), Spinach Balls

Chicken: Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Chicken Croquettes with a Special Sauce (Menus), Chicken Salad (Teas), Chicken Salad tea sandwiches (with the crusts cut off)

Vegetables: “Cauliflower au gratin a la Huntington” with Hollandaise sauce (NYC) Collard greens (NYC), Fried Salisfy (Oyster plant at SMR), Sweet Potato Fries, Southern-Style creamed spinach (No. 2 & SMR), Southern Greens with Bacon (Southern- apple cider, sugar, & hot sauce), Virginia Southern Style Corn Pudding (VIR), Fried Okra with Buttermilk Dressing (SMR), Southern Succotash (Corn, Southern Lima beans, Onion & Red peppers with garlic & spices & bacon) (SPRR) , Deep Fried Pickles with Remoulade Dipping Sauce, Pickled Red Beets, Southern Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk-Egg Coating,

Southern Seafood: Shrimp & Grits (NOLA), Southern Crab Cakes with Remoulade sauce (NOLA, TN, NYC), Southern Style Shrimp Boil, Shrimp & Chicken Gumbo (NOLA, SMR, & NO.2), Friday Fish Fry or Southern Fish Fry (Arabella might have been Catholic, she had a great affection for the Virgin Mary & the Baby Jesus; she also hired many Irish Catholic servants)

Southern Entrees: Southern Fried Chicken (SMR, No. 2, & TN) Roast Turkey with Mashed Potatoes & Giblet Gravy (SMR & No.2), Buttermilk Biscuits, Biscuits & Sausage Gravy (Alabama) Ham Biscuits with Sausage Gravy, Pulled Pork & Coleslaw Sandwich (Southern & SMR), West Virginia Shepherd’s Pie (VIR)

Bread: Southern Style Cornbread, Southern BBQ Pork Ribs (SMR & TN), Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Salad: Ambrosia, Potato Salad (with mayo & hard boiled egg), Southern Coleslaw (SMR & No. 2 with buttermilk, mayo, dijon mustard, grated onion Red cabbage & carrots, with lemon juice, onion powder & pepper), Southern Chicken Salad (West VIR) with celery, sour cream & mayonnaise with white wine vinegar), Pickled Shrimp Salad with French Vinaigrette

Southern Ambrosia Salad with Apples, grapes, mandarin oranges, coconut flakes, marshmallows, & cream.

Potatoes & Pasta: Hominy (No. 2) Macaroni & Cheese (NYC), Southern Cheese Grits with Shrimp (SMR) Linguine with Clams (TN)

Southern Bread and Biscuits: Buttermilk Beaten Biscuits, (VIR, W. VIR, NO 2, TN, CPK & SMR, Biscuit Sausage Gravy, Virginia Spoon Bread (VIR), Southern style cornbread

Fruit: Fruit Salad, Ambrosia, Brandied Peaches (NYC, SMR, TN)

Southern Pies: Pecan Pie (SMR), Southern Peach Cobbler (SMR and TN), Myrtleberry pie (with raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cinnamon & sugar) (SMR), Sweet Potato Pie (SMR) Key Lime Pie, with Chantilly Cream (whipped cream with some vanilla sugar added), Southern Buttermilk Pie (Lemon), Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon or Kentucky Derby Pie (KENT)

Myrtleberry Pie: mixed berry pie with Raspberries, Blueberries & Blackberries with sugar and cinnamon in a flakey pie crust (there is no such thing as a myrtle berry).

Southern Desserts: Mrs. Kley’s Huntington Mansion Honey Spice Bars (SMR & identical to a West Virginia recipe I found), Charlotte Pudding, Apple Charlotte (SMR), “Southern Pecan Tassies” or Pecan Tarts (SMR), Pecan Pie (SMR), Apple pie (Oneonta, No. 2 & SMR), Hummingbird Cake (Savannah, GA), Mixed Berry or Myrtleberry Pie (SMR), Key Lime Pie, Crepes Suzette a la Orange (SMR), Bananas Foster Flambe (NOLA), Peach Cobbler (SMR), Strawberry Shortcake (Southern), Mincemeat tart (No. 2 and SMR),

Petit Pecan Tassies or Pecan tarts

Southern Tea & Cake: Virginia Ham with Ham biscuits (SMR & No. 2), Southern Rum Cake (SMR), Luzianne Southern Sweet Tea (NOLA), Peach Tea, Chocolate Moist Rum Cake (No. 2), Red Velvet Cake (NOLA), New Orleans Beignets (dusted with powdered sugar with a cup of coffee NOLA , SF, & SMR), Southern Beaten Biscuits or Cream Scones with heavy cream (SMR & No. 2) with Sweet Butter or Spicy Butter or Raspberry Jams (No. 2 & SMR), Southern Pimento Cheese Sandwiches (SMR), Southern Tomato & Mayonnaise Tea Sandwich, Country Ham Biscuits, Apple muffins (VIR), Virginia Peanuts (SMR & No. 2) Luzianne Tea – Southern Peach tea & others (1902), Sweet Potato Jam with spices & lemon zest, Brandied Peaches & Pears.

Southern Cookies: Southern Tea Cookies (Vanilla Icing), Southern Molasses Cookies (chewy), Southern Pecan Nougat Cookies with powdered sugar, Lorna Doones cookies (No. 2, Mrs. Huntington always served these & French butter cookies)-introduced by Nabisco in March 1912. Cookies were made by Emily & John Malloy ran a bakery in Chicago. The couple was from Co. Cork, Ireland.), Irish Shortbread Cookies (No. 2), Parisian macaroons, Southern Bourbon Balls, Pecan Petit tassies (baby pecan pies)

Candy & Nuts: Southern Pralines (NOLA & No 2), Jordan Almonds (SMR & No.2) Nuts, Virginia Peanuts (SMR & No. 2), Spiced Nuts (No.2), Whiskey Balls,

[Southern] Sassafras Cordial Recipe (1899)

1/2 [c.] sassafras chips, 2 oz. compound extract of sarsaparilla, 1 oz. gum arabic (dissolved in white wine), 1 oz. juniper berries, bruised, 2 oz. pistachio nuts blanched & beaten, 1 oz. syrup of lemons, 2 oz. rosemary leaves shredded fine, 1 oz. sweet marjoram shredded fine, 1 oz. candied lemon, 1 oz. candied citron, 9 oz. sugar candy, 12 oz. muscatel raisins stoned and cut, 3 qts. sherry wine & 2 qts. proof spirit of wine [Vodka].

Beat the nuts with a little wine & put all the ingredients into a [1 gallon mason jar with lid] jar, which corked & seal. Set the jar in a hot water bath & let the cordial infuse 8 hours every day for a week. Keep 2 months then strain & filter [thru cheesecloth]. Sassafras Cordial is greatly improved by age. Document: Book Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, London, Paris & NYC (1899) (one of Mr. Huntington’s rare books)

Document: HEH Coll. HEH MS 19/1-18 uncat (Alfonso Gomez interviews); Document: HEH Coll HEH MS. Box 198,199, 200 (Fancy No. 2 Dinner Menu); Document HEH Coll HEH MS 38/11 (New York Bills) of the Huntington Mansion at No. 2 E.57th St NYC at the Huntington Library, San Marino CA ;

  1. Though she had staff, I still cannot imagine the PRODUCTION of every single meal, for 12 or 200! Thank you for this fascinating insight into the life of Belle!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gail, You are welcome!! When I write about the Huntingtons and their life – I am continually amazed at them and who they knew and what they accomplished! Thanks!


    2. Thanks Gail, Isn’t that the truth. I try to picture what it might have been like. They often hired extra if needed for large parties. Best Regards. Nancy


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