A year in the life of Mr. and Mrs. H. E. Huntington (Edwards & Arabella)

Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch (now the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

by Nancy Armitage

To get a scope of the Huntington’s life, one must grasp all of it. Even though the Huntington’s San Marino Ranch was Mr. H. E. Huntington’s favorite place in the world…. they were only “In-Residence” at the San Marino Ranch for about 3-5 months of the year. The years, 1916 & 1919 were exceptions to the rule, those were the war years; the Huntingtons spent almost the whole year at the Ranch.

5 Huntington Mansions/Estates:

In the 1920’s, the H. E. Huntington’s (Edwards & Belle) owned & used 5 mansions/properties (4 in USA & 1 chateau in France.) They had 3 New York mansions & estates: one in the city at No. 2 57th Street (& 5th Ave.) New York City, New York. At “No. 2” mansion they affectionally called it, they had 18-25 servant staff but in 1916 & in 1917, a staff of 21 was living at that Huntington Mansion. They also had a garage to house all the Huntington automobile cars down the street from No. 2 57th St. ; the Huntington Garage was located at 145-147 E. 57th St. New York City, New York

In New York City, the Huntingtons also employed a coachmen (Mr. J. F. Bennett, Mrs. Huntington long time employee) with horse & buggy to ride in, too. Bennett was still working for the Huntington in 1916. I’m not sure where they stored the horses in town. But most likely the Huntingtons had a “coach building” (Horse & Buggy Garage) of sorts (3-4 story building that held the coachmen’s families, horses, & hay; with a upstairs (2nd & 3rd floor is where the coachmen & their family lived).

The Huntington Garage (above) had 3 addresses on East 57th : 145, 146, & 147 57th Street. Maybe one of these addresses was the Huntington’s Coachmen House/Building. Mrs. Huntington really enjoyed riding in a horse & carriage on a gorgeous day & get some fresh air. Bennett worked for the Huntingtons for decades. In 1924, Mr. Bennett’s widow $10,000 (he had past away) from Mrs. Arabella Huntington in her will.

They had the Huntingtons massive estate called “Homestead” at Throgg’s Neck in Westchester Co., NY . The Huntingtons enjoys this property on weekends & in the summer, especially. It was between 400-1000 Acres which is now Brooklyn or the Bronx. Arabella Huntington also owned City Island at one time. At Huntington Homestead”, they had 25 servant staff in the 1920’s at this estate, this is not including the 6-8 Traveling Servants that traveled by railroad train car, “San Marino I & San Marino 2” with the Huntingtons.

The Huntingtons also owned the great Huntington Camp called “Camp Pine Knot”. Camp Pine Knot was located on the Racquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains (341 acres) in upper state New York. On this beautiful mountain & lake property, the Huntington’s would usually visit in August.

In Paris, Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington leased the grand Chateau de Beauregard (400 acres/187 hectares) from Mr. de Forest. They leased it from 1913 to 1923 from Baron De Forest. Chateau Beauregard had the “Ebat” Horse Stable, the large Chateau, & manor house, also. Their address was Chateau de Beauregard Le Celle St. Cloud, S. & O. Le Chesney, Paris. It was located by Versailles & the Sevres Factory – Arabella must have been in heaven, right next to her favorite French porcelain shop! They had 21 In-house servants & about 9 gardeners at the Chateau. For 10 years, Mr. H. E. Huntington paid all of them full time even when the Huntington weren’t “In-Residence”. He also paid all the bills for renovations, furniture, trees, plants, herb and roses.

Huntington Ranches surrounding the San Marino Ranch

The San Marino Ranch in Southern California: large property was 501 acres, this doesn’t include all the ranches he owned surrounding the ranch. There were many other ranches that Mr. Huntington’s owned that were money makers for Mr. Huntington. The San Marino Ranch ledgers always identified these ranches separately, there was Oneonta, El Molino Ranch, Huntington Tract 1 & Huntington Tract 2, the Ramona Ranch, & the Rosemead Ranch. Plus all the 100’s of 1000’s of acres Mr. Henry E. Huntington owned in LA County & in California. (Check my Blog on Mr. Huntington’s property for details).

This is one of the few photographs I have seen of one of Mr. & Mrs. H.E. Huntington’s employees. I believe this man to be Mr. Augus McGillvary (the Huntington ‘s Head Butler & also one of their Traveling Servant). He seems to be taking a walk from the Terrace thru the large lawn , towards the rose garden & up to the Billards Room/ Bowling alley. McGillivary was of Scottish heritage & wearing his entire proper Butler’s attire. His attire composed of a black suit with tails a vest, white tie, and white gloves. Complete with the addition of white button up “spats” on his shoes. We know that McGillvary had worked for the Huntington Family for about 34 years. This is a snapshot of a movie about San Marino Ranch/ the Huntington filmed in the 1960’s.

San Marino Ranch employees:

In 1919-1920, Mr. Huntington had 110 employees at the Ranch in those years. They were many more employees on the San Marino Ranch payroll in those two years because H. E. “Edwards” Huntington was building the “Library Building” at the time. There were engineers, carpenters, roofers, librarians, painters, gardeners (with a specialty like “rose man” or “orchid man”) with in-house servants were about 16-20 depending on the season. If the Huntingtons were doing a lot of entertaining or it was Christmas time, they had extra help also come in. Mrs. Kley for instance, had a home on the San Marino Ranch & her husband was a fine carpenter who also worked at the Ranch. Mrs. Kley would often come & treat the Huntingtons to her special dessert. Her specialties like her Huntington Mansion Spicy Honey Bars that are a combination of chocolate brownie & a chocolate truffle with Royal Icing on top and her Cinnamon Swirl Cookies.

Afternoon Tea or “At-homes” tea get-togethers were often enjoyed at the Huntington’s mansion. Mrs. Huntington had numerous set of fine bone china & silver teapots to host a fabulous tea, cookies, & cake in the afternoon. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

Jeweled-colored Preserves at the Ranch:

If it was preserving season in the summertime, extra help would come into the Huntington Kitchen to help make San Marino Ranch Orange Marmalade, Raspberry Jam, Loganberry Jam, Brandied Peaches, & Tutti-Fruitti (a layering of different sliced fruit & bathed in brandy & rum). Think of all the fruit that comes in season in the summertime: plums, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, & so many berries. I have even seen a post card with San Marino Preserving Kitchen probably once started on the San Marino Ranch by Miss Nora Larsen had to move it to South Pasadena , probably when Mr. Huntington passed away, Later, the San Marino Preserving Kitchen, Inc located in Lakewood, CA probably make the Orange Marmalade for the Huntington Library.

Tea party in the Garden Gazebo. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

It was interesting that they treated all the Huntington properties like a traveler would. The Huntingtons always seem to enjoy the local produce & local environment of all of their properties. They enjoyed the locale, which season that they were “In-Residence”, & what produce that particular season would offer. In California, they enjoyed Oranges, Crabmeat, California Artichokes, Spinach, Petaluma Cheese, & California Avocados (Alligator pears). In New York, they enjoyed Lobster, Oysters, Paella Spanish Seafood Stew, New York Waldorf Salad, Cranberries, & New York Cheesecake. They hired the best chefs & cooks. The Huntington family seemed to let the cooks/chefs determine the recipes & menus, with Mrs. Huntington’s input & approval, I’m sure. Always using the San Marino Ranch abundance of fruits, herbs, fresh vegetables, herbs, & nuts. Always using fresh milk, eggs, turkey, chickens & capons from the Ranch.

Daily Abundance at the San Marino Ranch

The San Marino Ranch was bursting with abundance of fruit, vegetables & herbs. Alfonzo Gomez, the Huntington’s head butler tells us that Mrs. Arabella Huntington was “the boss of the house”. So it sounds like she had the last word on all decisions pertaining to her Huntington mansions. I’m sure Mrs. Huntington, Mr. Hertrich, Miss Nora Larsen, & the Ranch Head Cook had weekly/or daily meetings about the food, the Daily menus, & Huntington entertaining menus. The food on the property & menus were the fruit of the San Marino Dining Room table. If artichokes, mangos, mushrooms, asparagus were in season, the Huntington’s would have enjoyed these treasures on their table in the proper season. I’m sure that they had some kind of system with Mr. Hertrich & Miss Nora Larsen, & the Head Cook. For Hertrich, would have known about what fruit & vegetables were in-season & ripe for cooking, or over-ripe for canning, preserving and/or sauces. Maybe, Hertrich or one of his crew would take a daily basket(s) filled with Ranch treasures to the kitchen & the Head Cook. At the Huntington Mansion, they had a marvelous screen-in breeze-way leading into the mansion kitchen. This was a perfect location for baskets or boxes of summer fruit coming to the kitchen.

The Head Cook most likely took a tour of the gigantic ranch veggie gardens (they were two massive vegetable gardens) to see what was in store for the Huntingtons & their guests. To adjust the menus accordingly with beautiful produce from the San Marino Ranch. Especially in California, they were able to get amazing fresh fruit (Oranges) even in wintertime. That was a really big treat for the Huntingtons being from the east coast. Mr. Huntington with Mr. Hertrich (Head Superintendent of the Ranch) had many exotic fruits growing in the Lath House. They had papaya, mango, bananas, kiwi fruit, guava fruit, & passionfruit. Can you image what joy Mr. Huntington had to share his cornucopia of wonders at the Ranch? To serve a dinner guest, a beautiful ripe mango or a mouthful of loganberries – maybe for the 1st time ever!! Maybe his guests had never eaten a mango before, what a treat!! At the Huntington’s Ranch, I bet many people received a lot of “1st”s, to see a peacock up-close for the 1st time, just delightful.

So lets go thru the year with the Huntington Family:


Most of the time after Christmas & close to New Years, the Huntingtons were traveling on their private railroad car called: “San Marino 1 & “San Marino 2” from their No. 2 57th St. NYC Huntington Mansion to the San Marino Ranch. It took them about one week to make the whole train trip. Sometimes, they would stop in New Orleans, Atlanta, or Texas to enjoy the food & the city in New Orleans or visit Arabella’s family in Texas.

Sometimes, the Huntingtons arrived at the Ranch on January 1st. They would enjoy the New Year’s holiday festivities in Pasadena (Pasadena Rose Parade) & at the Ranch. Diaries entry of HEH’s brother-in-law E. Burke Holladay mentions the Huntingtons going to the Rose Parade & going to the Football Game at the Pasadena Tournament Park, Pasadena, CA.

Rose float cruising down Colorado Blvd in Pasadena on New Years Day. The Pasadena New Years’s Parade has been a tradition since the 1890’s.

Remember Arabella Huntington was a Southern Belle; she would have enjoyed having a Huntington New Years Open House. She would have served delicious beautiful Southern food to enjoy in the New Year. To bring good luck, good fortune & happiness to family, employees & friends all for the New Year.

On New Years Day, Southern Traditional foods need to be made. Like Southern Corn Bread, or Southern Sausage & Cheese Bread, Fried Okra with creamy spicy sauce, Black Eyed Peas Salad, Peach upside-down Cake, Collard Greens, Cheese Grit Casserole, or Hoppin’ John. Hoppin’ John is rice, bacon, & ham with cayenne pepper, red or green bell pepper, celery & onion, with basil, thyme & oregano, with green onions.

Often, the Huntingtons were in the middle of their train journey from New York City to San Marino Ranch on New Years Day – January 1st. She also could have asked the chefs on their private railroad car, “SM1” to cook up some special Southern New Year’s food. They could have also pick up some delicious food in New Orleans like Shrimp Gumbo & New Orleans Beignets dusted with powdered sugar for a treat.


The trees & the flowers are just starting to bud at the San Marino Ranch & the hint of Spring is in the air. Oranges from every orange tree were in season. Alfonso Gomez tells us that he made fresh orange juice everyday for Mr. & Mrs. Huntington everyday at the Ranch. They so enjoyed that special fruit from the ranch so much.

February 27 was Mr. Huntington’s birthday at the ranch. Mrs. Huntington would have made this day special for her husband. A large party with birthday cake & champagne or maybe a intimate lunch dinner with friends & family. But what he liked most was “Sunday at the Ranch” for a wonderful BBQ with 20-30 people would be fun. too. They could have enjoyed a formal dinner with family & friends at the Jonathan Club or the California Club, also.

Winter in California:

It actually does rain in Los Angeles, California; on these rainy days entertainment would have been easily moved to the Loggia (large covered patio) or inside in the Huntington Mansion. Or the Huntingtons could have entertained & hosted luncheons or dinners at their private clubs: Annandale Country Club (Pasadena), or Jonathan Club, Wilshire Country Club, or California Club in downtown Los Angeles, CA.

Springtime in the garden. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

Spring (March, April & May)

Spring is a incredible time at the San Marino Ranch (now the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA). The fragrant bulbs of Hyacinth, Daffodils, Paperwhites, & Wisteria are in full bloom. Walks thru the gardens at this time are sublime. If the roses haven’t been completely cut back in January, they start to bloom in March.

Just before the Huntingtons left to travel back east on their private RR car “San Marino I & San Marino II”, they did a lot of entertaining. Sometime they entertained every night of the week. These events were documented by HEH’s brother- in- law, E. Burke Holladay in Burkes Journals found at the Huntington Library. Some were large luncheons & bridge parties hosted by Mrs. Arabella Huntington.

Before the Huntingtons took the long journey back to New York, they entertained alot at the San Marino Ranch. “Sundays at the Ranch” celebrated every Sunday with 20 luncheon guests maybe 40 guests, maybe more. Often, asking 6-12 guests to join them for formal luncheons & formal dress-up dinners.

Often, in May or June, the Huntingtons were on a grand ship, headed for Europe or France, like the “S. S. Venezuela” (May 1913 Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) took this ship before she married H. E. “Edwards” Huntington in Paris.

Often, the Huntingtons were in Paris or Europe for Arabella Huntington birthday – June 1st. . Paris was one of Araballa’s favorite cities and a very special place to be on your birthday.


June 1st was Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s birthday. At this time period, they were located usually in Europe. They usually based themselves in Paris or Chateau de Beauregard by Versailles, France. The Huntingtons would take little side trips around Europe, like London, Italy, Switzerland, Germany & the south of France in Aix. Sometimes, the Huntington’s were at the San Marino Ranch or No. 2 or Throgg’s Neck Estate in Westchester Co, in New York, depending on the year.

4th of July Fireworks in New York Harbor is a site to be seen.


The Huntingtons were very patriotic family. One of their ancestors, Samuel Huntington signed the American’s Declarations of Independence. They were very proud of that American heritage. In July, sometimes the Huntingtons were at No. 2 for American 4th of July celebrations; weekends & summer. But usually they were located at Throggs Neck “Homestead” Huntington estate (400-1000 acres), A very patriotic week for all America, especially in New York Harbor, the fireworks would be quite special. Archer Huntington had a yacht & he was also a member of the New York Yacht Club (located in NYC & Newport, Rhode Island. Archer & his 1st wife Helen with Arabella & Collis Huntington and others could have taken fun trips up to Newport Rhode Island; maybe to see the America’s Cup races, too.

The American Flag

In July of 1920, Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington “Edwards & Belle” were aboard the grand ship, “RMS Aquitania” traveling from NYC to France, Compared to other years, this was a late departure for the Huntingtons to go to Europe, in July instead of June.


In NYC, during the month of August it is hot, humid, & muggy. For relief, the Huntingtons would spend time at the Great Huntington Camp. Their camp was called “Camp Pine Knot” up in Racquette Lake in the Adirondacks Mountains in upper state New York. To get out of the heat, the Huntingtons would travel north by train, then a boat across Racquette Lake to get up to the Adirondacks to Camp Pine Knot . A very difficult journey until Collis built the Racquette Railway & made it much easier instead of their bumpy horse & buggy ride.

Other years, like in the 1920’s, The Huntingtons (Edwards & Belle) were aboard during the summertime, traveling around Europe. Their usual pattern in the year, was to leave the States in June & sail home to America in October.

In Paris, usually they stayed at Paris Ritz or Hotel Bristol. In London England, they would stay at Browns Hotel, where the royalty stayed. Mr. H. E. Huntington stayed at Duveen’s Claridges Hotel suite in London in 1913, before he married Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella).

Mrs. Arabella Huntington loved the San Marino Ranch, but she didn’t like the heat. She really loved Paris the most. It was told by Alfonso Gomez the Huntington head Butler, that one nasty, hot, & humid August day Mrs. Huntington was very irritated & upset. She had a really bad case of heat stroke & she couldn’t handle the hot sticky weather any longer. She told Alfonso to pack Mr. Huntington’s luggage because they were leaving to the East immediately!! Document: HEH Coll. MS 19/1-18 (Alfonso Gomez tapes -HEH’s gentlemen valet & later Head Butler) Nancy Note: It has been assumed for years, that Mrs. Arabella Huntington just didn’t like the San Marino Ranch because of this story probably. Which is untrue, she just had a really bad case of sunstroke that made her physically sick.


If the Huntingtons had traveled to Europe for their “Grand Tour” or Annual Tour; in September or October they would be sailing back to America. While in Paris, they often had a “home base” in later years, like the Hotel Bristol in Paris or Chateau Beauregard (1913-1923). Then, they would take weekend trips to Italy, (Rome, Venice, London, or Florence). Maybe to Venice where Sir Jos. Duveen had a villa there. They would go on weekend or day trips to the South of France (Aix) or take the train to London from Chateau Beauregard. Mr. Huntington loved London with many of his favorite bookstores were there. The Huntington’s would pop into Duveens antique store in London or Paris & buy treasures!

But for Arabella it was Paris that really made her happy. She loved and bought all things French: French Furniture, French lace, French Paintings, Marie Antoinette Chandeliers, & romantic sculpture she loved; For Mr. Huntington he collected Antique manuscripts & Rare Books but classics & English landscape paintings, or English portraits, too. The entire Dining Room at the Ranch was filled with 9 English Romney portrait paintings. Document: HEH Coll. MS 12/1-30 (Chateau Beauregard)

Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, NYC


Often, the Huntingtons servant staff had packed their steamer ship trunks & were traveling home to America by October. The Huntingtons usually traveled on a Cunard ship or grand ship like “S. S. George Washington”, or the “S. S. Mauretania” (Cunard) in July 1920, or the “S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm” (1906) at this time of year.

Or the Huntingtons were on their trip home from France with their large entourage of servants & employees. They would be returning from their 1st season (1913) at their leased Chateau Beauregard & a long stay at Hotel Bristol in Paris while their renovated the Chateau.

They sailed on the “S. S. Olympic (Cunard ship) on Oct. 28, 1914, it was said to be the biggest ship in the world at the time. Mr. & Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella, ) with his personal secretary, Robert Varnum & his wife Catherine, (he was fired in 1915 for offending Mrs. Arabella Huntington). Also, 2 Butlers: Mc Gillivery & Alfonzo Gomez (he was also Mr. Huntington’s Gentlemen’s Valet), & 2 other Footmen/Butlers one named Temple, & also a cook. Also, Mrs. Huntington’s Ladies’ Maid, Jeanne Reifer, George Hapgood (HEH’s correspondence secretary & Miss Caroline M. Campbell (ADH’s private Social Secretary & friend). New Yorkers don’t ever want to miss a day or a week of the stunning Autumn color in New York!

The stunning Autumn color show put on by maple, liquid amber and gingko trees.


The month of November & December were saved for great & elaborate Huntington “entertainments” for family, & friends. Especially in New York City at the Huntington Mansion at No. 2 East 57th St. NYC. The Huntingtons would enjoy family members & friends as houseguests for festive lunches & dinners. Most Thanksgivings were celebrated at Archer Huntington’s mansion in Pelham Bay called “Pleasure” (now called Huntington Woods) Baychester, New York.

Mrs. Arabella Huntington had a great affection for the Virgin Mary, as we can see in her large collection of Madonna and Child paintings.The Huntington called her collection “the Primitives.”


Mrs. Huntington loved Christmas & the holidays especially in New York City at No. 2 NYC almost every year. She loved shopping & giving wonderful gifts to her family, friends, & household staff.

I did find a exception to this Christmas tradition: in December of 1903 -Mrs. Arabella Huntington was in Paris on Christmas with her son, Archer Huntington & his 1st wife, Helen! They spent Christmas & New Years Eve in Paris & came home to the states in the middle of January of 1904. Staying at the Paris Ritz in Vendrome or Hotel Continental or Hotel Bristol.

In the month of December, I found numerous invoices with evidence of much Christmas Holiday Baking at the Huntington Mansion. The Huntington kitchen was busy making: Mincemeat tarts, Shortbread cookies, Gingerbread men & Gingerbread Houses, Christmas Fruit Cake, Christmas Yule Log, Pumpkin Pies, & so much more.

A Christmas creche. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

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