“The Huntington tea.” (1915 given by Mrs. Howard Huntington-Leslie)

Florist or Garden fresh flowers are lovely for a formal afternoon tea. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

by Nancy Armitage

This “Huntington Tea” was one of the biggest entertainment at the residences recorded of the Huntington Family. 700 invitations were sent out & 400 people attended this delightful party. The location of the “Huntington tea” & garden party was at the Howard Huntington’s mansion in Oak Knoll in Pasadena, CA . The date of the elegant garden tea was before April 18, 1915 per the Los Angeles Times. Mr. & Mrs. Howard Huntington (Leslie) lived across the street from the Hotel Huntington (now the Langham-Huntington) in Pasadena, CA. The hostess was Mrs. Howard E. Huntington (Leslie). The Los Angeles Times gives us a very romantic description of the lovely April day in Pasadena, California.

A painting of Mrs. Howard E. Huntington (Leslie). When the H. E. Huntington were “In-Residence” at the San Marino Ranch, Leslie &Mrs. Arabella “Belle” Huntington saw each other for luncheon & private tea in the Small Drawing-Room later, almost everyday.

“The Huntington Tea.”

It sounds like Mrs. Huntington (Leslie) had a very magical garden at their Oak Knoll mansion indeed. The writer at the Los Angeles Times called it… “Standing pre-eminently as the most delightful, the largest social sphere was Mrs. Howard Huntington’s handsomely appointed tea given on Wednesday afternoon at her palatial home in Oak Knoll, Pasadena, [CA].”

The sign of spring in Southern California are the pink magnolias in bloom, look quite stunning against a bright blue sky!

“The balmy sunshine, inviting out-of-door nooks–where all the rare & beautiful vines, trees, & shrubs were abloom, the wisteria-covered patios & rose-empowered pergolas & loggias offered a glorious background for the handsomely-attired matrons & belles as representative of Southern California’s real social life–all tended toward perfecting a scene of beauty for the event, reviving that alluring garden party so popular in former historic days which seems just now to be experiencing a fresh impetus for favor, together with other picturesque modes of the early ‘30’s.”

The Huntington’s ordered large amounts of yellow Acacia trees at the San Marino Ranch. Big pops of yellow really stand out in a garden.

“The interior of the hostess’s home [Mrs. Howard E. Huntington- Leslie], so rich with art treasures that it needs no additional adornment, was given the note of spring by adding just the right shading in the floral motif. The receiving line composed of Mrs. [Leslie] Huntington, her mother, Mrs. Adam T. Green, & Mrs. Henry E. Huntington [Arabella], stood in the window of the Drawing-Room, which was lovely in its added beauty of yellow banksia rose boughs & masses of Scotch bloom [bright yellow scrub, now called “Sweet Broom”]. The great hall was done in sprays of red roses, while the Dining-room was converted into a veritable floral bower with flowering shrubs.”

What was the fine bone china that Mrs. Howard Huntington used for her grand Huntington tea? These plates & tea cups & saucers are Dresden “Empress”, which we know Mrs. H. E. Huntington (Arabella) owned a large set. But this was a very large party. The garden tea party was catered & the caterer would have provided plates & tea cups.. In fact, The Huntington Land & Improvement with H. E. Huntington still owned the Hotel Huntington in Pasadena in 1915; they sold it 1918. The Hotel Huntington could have been hired to cater this fine party. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

“The tea tables were both in this room & scattered out on the terraced lawn with its wonderful vista overlooking the San Gabriel Valley up to the snow-capped Old Baldy [mountain range by San Bernardino, CA]. Director Tandler & a picked corps of musicians dispensed sweet music from the conservatory [Large glassed-in hot house or garden room], while a 2nd group of musicians were ensconced out of doors in a bower of growing greenery. On the breakfast & lounging porches were served frapped punch by liveried caterers. “

Frappes are between a punch & an a ice. In gildedtimes.wordpress.com, they give a recipe for “India Frappe” which is a mixture of sugar, water, Fruit juice (pineapple, currants, cherry, strawberry, or grape), oranges, lemons, black India tea, crushed bananas & strawberries). Often, in frappe recipes, they would freeze the fruit of the ingredients. Which sounds like a frozen smoothie to me, made in a blender. In each glass, they would add sprig of mint & slice of orange to decorate it. Other garden party provisions might have been a variety of tea sandwiches made of chicken, hard-boiled egg, cucumber & dill, or salmon. Salads could have been chicken salad, fruit salad, or crab salad. For dainty desserts, Mrs. Leslie Huntington could have had a variety of tea cakes, petit pecan tarts, delicate cookies & candy.

 “700 invitations were issued by this charming young society matron.  Assisting Mrs. Huntington [Leslie] were her mother, Mrs. Adam T. Green, Mrs. Henry E. Huntington [Arabella], Mrs. Fred H. Bixby, Mrs. Ernest A. Bryant,  Mrs. Samuel Haskins, Mrs. Jefferson Chandler, Miss Kate Williams, Mrs. Frederick Sears, Mrs. Wm. E. Dunn,  Mrs. George Flint, Mrs. Arthur Goodhue, Mrs. Hugh L. MacNeil, Mrs. Mary Longstreet, Mrs. Ella B. Solano, Mrs. Allan C.  Balch, Miss Katherine Banning,  Mrs. Volney Craig, Mrs.  Wm. Brackenridge, Mrs. Tod Ford, Mrs. Michael Connell, Mrs. Wm. Garland,  Mrs. Granville MacGowan,  Mrs. Randolph Huntington Miner, Mrs. Dean Mason, Miss Mellus, Mrs. Samuel Thomas, Miss Lucy Clark, Miss Janet Stimson, Mrs. Lawrence Burck, Mrs. William Joyce, Mrs. Richard Schweppe, Mrs. I. N. Van Nuys, Miss Delight Shaffer, Mrs. Harry Robinson, Mrs. James McBride, Mrs. Willoughby Rodman, Mrs. Rob. Pitcairn, Mrs. Frank Griffith, Mrs. Edward Groenendyke, Mrs. Norbert Murray, Mrs. Hugh Stewart,  Mrs. J. J. Meyler, Mrs. J.A. Graves, Mrs. Ervin Armstrong, Mrs. Geo. S. Patton, Miss Anne Wilson, Mrs. Edward Robbins, Miss Theodora Robbins,  Mrs. Albert S. Hoyt, Mrs. Stevens Halsted, Mrs. Harrison Drummond, Mrs. Arthur Libby, Mrs. John Cravens,  Miss Miller,  Mrs. John Barnes Miller, Mrs. Charles C. Pergins, Mrs. Harold Wrenn, Mrs. Wesley Clark, Miss Inez Clark,  Mrs. Edwin J. Marshall,  Mrs. Sydney Wailes, Mrs. Fred E. Wilcox, Mrs. Ashley Robertson. Mrs. George J. Denis, & Mrs. E. Avery McCarthy.  Document: Los Angeles Times- Sunday Morning dated April 18, 1915

Colorful primroses of yellow, purple/yellow & hot pink/yellow perk up the front year of any garden in Springtime. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

The people’s names (above) I highlighted were people that socialized often with the H. E. Huntingtons: “Edwards & Belle” or Arabella and the Howard Huntingtons (Leslie). We know these people came to luncheons or dinners at the Huntington Mansion on the San Marino Ranch & Oak Knoll in Southern California. 

A delightful garden with a lot of “nooks;” little places to walk to on a alluring curvy path. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

What I would like to know… is what was the connection to host this amazing tea? A garden walk for inspiration with the Pasadena Garden Club? or the Pasadena Presbyterian Church raising money for a charity? or where the Huntington’s promoting “Oak Knoll” real estate? The newspaper article really doesn’t tell us. Also, in 1915, Mr. H. E. Huntington had kindly sent to his son’s Oak Knoll mansion a massive amount of plants & trees from his San Marino Ranch. Plants like wisteria, white fragrant gardenias, romantic roses, & colorful fragrant spring flowers to enhance their amazing Oak Knoll garden.

Document: Los Angeles Times – Sunday Morning dated April 18, 1915

Tandler: was Mr. Adolf Tandler who was a violinist, composer, & a musical conductor. He was also part of a quartet. Mrs. Arabella Huntington often hired a string quartet to serenade her guests during her “entertainments”. In 1907, Mr. Tandler traveled to Los Angeles to play his music. He worked at the luxurious Hotel Alexandria in downtown LA. He also played lovely Saturday concerts by the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, too. In 1913, he conducted the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra (Mrs. Arabella Huntington supported them and was a member). Summer concerts for the LA symphony Orchestra were located at the romantic Hollywood Bowl.

A stunning hot pink fragrant rose. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage
%d bloggers like this: