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Published: August 11th 2019
The Huntington Library
The Huntington Library. An independent research library concentrating in the fields of British and American history, literature, art, and the history of science stretching from the 11th century to the present. Designed by Myron Hunt. Built in 1919-1920.
The Huntington, or the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens to give its full name, was our destination Sunday afternoon. The Huntington is a very popular weekend attraction for Southern California residents. Families and people of all ages enjoy coming out to stroll the beautiful and varied gardens. (This despite an entrance fee of $29 per person.) The Huntington Library is in San Marino, just across the city line (street) from Pasadena. The Huntington comprises a rare book library, a botanical garden and an art collection. Our goal this afternoon was to visit the library and see a bit of the gardens.
Railroad entrepreneur and businessman Henry E. Huntington (1850–1927) acquired Rancho San Marino, near Pasadena, in 1905. He and his wife, Arabella, redeveloped the working ranch and farm into a botanical display of 18 different gardens. Henry was also an avid collector of rare books and Arabella of art. The Huntington Library was built in 1920 to house the book and manuscript collections. In 1920, the Huntington Mansion was opened to the public as an art gallery, the first on the property.
The Huntington we visited has continued to grow and expand its library, art and plant
collections over the years. Our immediate objective was to visit the Huntington Library. The focus of the private research library's collection has traditionally been American and European printed books and manuscript, the history of printing and the history of science. The long public Exhibition Hall reminded me of that of the Folger Shakespeare Library, though the Huntington's hall is much larger. A selection of treasures from the collections is on view here. Exhibited books and manuscripts range from a Gutenberg Bible to an Abraham Lincoln letter. To the rear of the public exhibit space is the Dibner Hall of the History of Science. Here printed works and objects are displayed, among them a 16th century camera obscura and a 1672 article on telescopes by Sir Isaac Newton.
Outside the library, we strolled through the Desert Garden. The Desert Garden was one of the first to be established on the property, by Huntington himself in 1908. This was at a time, in the early 20th century, when desert plants were largely unknown and had not been studied. The garden now contains the largest collection of cacti, succulents and other desert plants from around the world. It continues to be used
as research collection as well as something different for visitors to see. Notable were the varieties of encephalartos plants from Africa.
A dinner engagement prevent our seeing other gardens. We concluded our stay be a visit to the gift shop and a walk by the California Golden Poppy beds.
Years ago I toured the Huntington Art Gallery, the former mansion built in 1911. It is a museum of European art, particularly of British paintings the Huntingtons favored. The famous paintings Blue Boy
by Thomas Gainsborough and Pinkie
by Thomas Lawrence are exhibited here. The building is both a historic house and an art museum. Gallery wings were added in 1934, but paintings and other arts works are displayed in every room. The mansion is thus arranged in the form of an English country house. Canaletto's Venice, the Molo and Piazza Ducale
(1735) hung over the mantle in the drawing room. The museum docent explained that its presence in a room otherwise filled with British portraits would show that the family had been on the Grand Tour.
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