Additional Institutions Founded and Funded by Archer M. Huntington
American Numismatic Society
Donated land, building and large collection, beginning in 1907.
Huntington spoke to the Numismatic Society in 1906 offering to purchase land and build for the society the first museum and library devoted to the study and history of numismatics. The American Numismatic Museum would boast the singular distinction of being the only museum in existence devoted to numismatics1 while containing the largest collection of coins, medals and paper money in the United States. Its library would hold the largest reference collection devoted to numismatics.
Completed in 1907, the building for the American Numismatic Society was designed by Charles P. Huntington, Archer's cousin, in the same Beaux-Arts style as the Hispanic Society. The frieze along the top of the Numismatic Society is inscribed with the names of distinguished numismatics scholars and collectors, and attests to the long and prestigious history of numismatics.
For centuries no type of object was more highly valued by collectors than numismatics. The inscriptions, emblems, and portraits on coins and medals enabled the study of history. The intrinsic value of the precious metals from which they were made, gold, silver and others, of course also added to their appeal. When it was built, the Numismatic Society was one of the first reinforced concrete structures in America. Later, in 1929, Huntington gave additional financial support to construct an addition that doubled the facility's size.2
Church of Our Lady of Esperanza
Donated land, building and subsequent expansion, beginning 1910.
Huntington donated the land and funds for construction of a Spanish-style church located at 155th Street known today as the Church of the Intercession. The initial idea for the church came from the wife of the Spanish consul-general, Senora Dona Manuela de Laverrerie de Barril, who desired a Spanish speaking church for New Yorkers. Charles P. Huntington, the architect, designed the church entrance approached by a flight of stairs that ascended east to west on 156th Street. Subsequent enlargement of the church in 1924 by architect Lawrence White, of the firm McKim Mead & White, dramatically changed the original design. The added vestibule accommodated a change of levels internally and brought the façade of the church flush to the sidewalk. While the building of Our Lady of Esperanza is part of Audubon Terrace, its entrance on 156th is inaccessible from the Audubon courtyard. The church therefore now does not interact architecturally with the other Audubon Terrace buildings.
American Geographical Society
Donated land, building and endowment, beginning 1911.
The American Geographical Society is the oldest such organization in the United States. Huntington served as President between 1907 and 1911, honorary president for an additional five years, and was a lifelong board member. He donated land and funds for construction of a new building at Audubon Terrace in 1911. The building, again designed by Charles P. Huntington, remains visually coherent with the adjoining Hispanic Society. Like the Hispanic Society, the American Geographical Society features Beaux-Arts wall bays pierced by tall arched windows and articulated by engaged Ionic columns. Along the top frieze, the names of famous explorers and geographers are inscribed. The Society encourages activities that expand geographical knowledge, and presents and interprets that knowledge to policy makers. During Huntington's tenure a signature characteristic of the AGS-sponsored exploration became the requirement that its expeditions produced tangible scientific results.
Those results were demonstrated during World War I, when the interdisciplinary, government-sponsored Inquiry in preparation for the Paris Peace Conference was led by the American Geographical Society and headquartered in the Society's building at Audubon Terrace. After the Armistice in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson and the American delegation sailed for France accompanied by the American Geographical Society director Isaiah Bowman and three truckloads of geographical information compiled by 150 geographers, historians, economists, statistic, ethnographers, political scientists, and scholars of international law with which they intended to establish international boundaries.3 The American Geographical Society continued to live up to its mission of producing tangible results and influencing policy when during World War II the Society assisted over forty U.S. government agencies. In celebration of the building's completion and the Society's 60th anniversary, Huntington financed a transcontinental excursion for nationally and internationally renowned geographers. Huntington regularly contributed money to the AGS, with single amounts as large as $100,000 to the Society's trust fund. The American Geographical Society has subsequently moved to 32 Court Street, Brooklyn New York.
As an interesting aside, Archer and his first wife Helen were in Europe on a map-purchasing expedition for the American Geographic Society in the summer of 1914. While crossing the border between Switzerland and Germany the German border guards opened the trunk of their car, saw the large collection of maps and immediately arrested the couple on suspicions of espionage. Their driver escaped back into Switzerland, contacted the embassy and within a few days Secretary of State William Jennings Brian secured their release. Meanwhile Archer was stripped naked and spent three days in jail.
The American Academy of Arts and Letters
Donated land, building and endowment, beginning 1911.
Founded in 1911, the American Academy of Arts and Letters promoted American fine arts and literature. Unable to raise funds due to World War I, the Academy was on the verge of closing when Huntington stepped in with funds to save the organization. The financial gift was recorded in the minutes as: "the munificent gift to the Academy of an unoccupied site in New York City and of the sum of $100,000, toward the permanent endowment of the Academy, the name of the donor being withheld at his request".4 In 1919, Huntington funded construction of a building at Audubon Terrace for the Academy and, at his insistence, provided funding to construct an additional building directly across the courtyard from the American Academy for the National Institute of Arts and Letters for an art gallery and exhibition hall for use by Academy members.5 Archer Huntington's favorite architect, his cousin Charles P. Huntington, having died, he turned to Academy member William Mitchell Kendall, of the firm of McKim, Mead & White. The Beaux-Arts design was built to stay stylistically coherent with the other Beaux-Arts buildings on Audubon Terrace. Archer Huntington served as the institution's primary financial supporter and donated in excess of $3.5 million over a period of twenty-five years.6
Museum of the American Indian
Donated land, multiple buildings, funds for expeditions, beginning 1922.
Huntington provided property and funds to erect the Museum of the American Indian at Audubon Terrace in 1922. The museum—designed by Huntington's cousin Charles P. Huntington, architect of earlier buildings at Audubon Terrace—was constructed directly across the courtyard from the Numismatic Society. The building was in the same Beaux-Arts style as its neighbors, and featured nearly identical wall and fenestration design, including a modillioned and bracketed cornice surmounted by a paneled parapet. Its frieze was inscribed with names of indigenous American tribes. Assembled largely by the collector George Gustav Heye (1874-1957), the collection was called the "Native American Museum" prior to its move to Audubon Terrace. The extensive collection grew so rapidly that in 1925, Huntington presented an additional six-acres of land in the Bronx and erected an annex to serve as a storage and exhibition facility. The collection included over 800,000 works of historical, aesthetic and religious significance. The collection now resides in the newly constructed National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and The National Museum of the American Indian—New York in lower Manhattan, both a part of the Smithsonian Institution.
Aztec Ruins National Monument, 1922
Huntington served as a trustee to the American Museum of Natural History. In 1922, Huntington funded a study of the so-called primitive people of the Southwest that resulted in the expansive collection of cultural material for the American Museum of Natural History. During excavations in New Mexico a large prehistoric pueblo was unearthed. Huntington purchased the land and donated the site to the United States with the purpose of creating a monument and museum for indigenous peoples.
Legion of Honor Museum, San Francisco
Donated initial collection in 1924.
Huntington donated 327 objects that formed the basis of the museum's collection. The collection included French 17th-18th century decorative arts, furniture and sculpture in addition to porcelain, tapestry, and textiles, and paintings, among them works by Fragonard, Hassam, Sorolla, and Tintoretto. Huntington's donation of a purchasing fund has supplied the museum with the majority of its subsequent purchases. A copy of Anna Hyatt Huntington's El Cid statue welcomes visitors at the entrance to the museum.
University of Texas at Austin Art Museum
Land donated 1927.
In 1927 Huntington, concerned about the lack of art and culture in Texas, donated 4,100 acres of land in Galveston County Texas to the University of Texas for the purpose of creating an art museum. Huntington deeded the proceeds from the property's oil and gas leases to establish a University museum in Austin. Its art collection was assembled over the next 36 years with money from the oil and gas, and opened its doors in 1963. The museum is one of the largest university art museums in the United States. In 2006 the museum was renamed the Blanton Museum of Art.
Mariners Museum, Newport News Virginia
Archer M. Huntington (1870-1955) and his second wife Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) founded the museum in 1930, on 800 acres they had acquired. They spent the next two years turning the land into what they called Museum Park. The Park included a 167-acre manmade lake, a five-mile shoreline trail with fourteen bridges, sculpture, and a memorial to Collis P. Huntington—Archer's adoptive father—whose Newport News Shipyard and drydock Company was the major employer of the nearby town during the first part of the 20th century.7
One of the world's finest maritime museums, situated in Newport News Virginia, on the banks of James River, the institution was dedicated to "illuminating mankind's experience with the sea and the events that shaped the course and progress of civilization".8 Huntington insisted the museum be "built not by architects but by engineers" since it was created to house scientific rather than art objects.9 10
Huntington assembled the collection of nautical paintings and objects from around the world, even commissioning a yachtsman to circumnavigate the globe in search of acquisitions in far off ports. The collection contains approximately 35,000 , of which approximately one-third are paintings and two-thirds are three-dimensional objects. Additionally, a library contains over 600,000 photographs and negatives, 78,000 books and over a million other documents related to maritime history. Of particular interest is the collection of navigational instruments (rivaling those found at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Netherlands Maritime Museum in Amsterdam and the Danish Mercantile and Maritime Museum in Denmark).11 The collection of over 900 instruments is divided into twelve categories with the three categories of timekeeping, navigational and meteorological combined to distinguish the collection. The meteorological collection in particular has no rival in the world.12 The museum makes a resounding case for a nation to develop and maintain shipping and international trade, both to sustain a strong economy and to be kept abreast of changing ideas and cultures.13
Brookgreen Garden, South Carolina
Brookgreen Gardens, the first public sculpture garden in America, has in its collection more than 1,400 works by over 350 sculptors. Exhibited within the gardens is the largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture in the world. The garden is framed by walls embellished with architectural detailing, and ornamented throughout with pergolas, urns and plaques, which are engraved with appropriate prose and poetic verse. The garden is designed as a series of connecting rooms arranged in a butterfly plan, with the wings outlined as pathways, and an axial approach formed by giant oaks draped in Spanish moss.
Brookgreen Garden transferred outdoor sculpture from the private realm of the estate garden into the public domain of the museum. A striking diversity of sculptural subjects, themes, size and medium engages the viewer. In contrast to gardens, which use sculpture to enhance a landscape, Brookgreen Garden uses landscape as a backdrop for its sculptures. It became the cornerstone of the Huntingtons' patronage of American figurative sculpture.14
Golf Museum, Virginia
Archer Huntington's Golf Museum is the oldest golf museum in the world and proudly boasts some of the earliest known golf artifacts. It was built within a few miles of Huntington's Mariners Museum and situated inside the elegant early Colonial clubhouse of the James River Country Club. Huntington offered to build the museum after hearing executives at his Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company discuss their plans for a golf course.15
While building the museum, Huntington determined that the facility also needed an accompanying library. He hired the assistant plant engineer of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, a native Scotsman and lover of golf, to help him assemble a collection. Huntington sent the Scotsman to Great Britain on a purchasing trip, during which he assembled a library and the golf paraphernalia that told the history of the game.
The museum's collections contain the earliest example of clubs, manufactured around 1756, along with an impressive progression of golf balls, including rare examples of eighteen-century primitive feather balls, made of seagull feathers boiled in oil, stuffed tightly into leather covers then rolled by hand. The library has assembled over a thousand volumes on golf topics, including the first known reference to golf in print—a book of Scottish laws from 1566 called "the Black Acts" with a later updated version from 1597. The laws forbid the playing of golf on Sunday as it was said to interfere with the bow and arrow practice expected by their majesties as essential to defense of the realm. Of additional interest is a Latin-English dictionary printed in 1684 containing the world and definition "paganica: a goff [sic] ball or stow ball stuffed with feathers." Huntington's collection ultimately led golf historians to surmise that golf potentially came from the Romans who brought the game to the British Isles, instead of the generally held belief that golf derived from a Dutch game.
The introduction of golf to America is also well documented and displayed. It was first described in 1722 by Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who experienced golf on a visit to Edinburgh, returned home to Philadelphia, and wrote a sermon on temperance, the value of exercise and the ideal nature of golf as a healthy pursuit.
Archer and Anna Huntington Wildlife Forest Station
Donated in 1932.
1932 Huntington presented 6,000 acres of land in the Adirondack Mountains of New York to Syracuse University, which established a nature preserve.
Poet Laureate, Library of Congress
Founded in 1937.
Huntington established the "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress" in 1937, with the goal of raising the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The Poet Laureate serves for one year, and other than one annual lecture and reading of his or her poetry, is given freedom to pursue personal projects. Huntington's endowment bequeaths a $35,000 stipend, which was a considerable sum in 1937. The hope was to allow the poet laureate to abandon worries about earning a living and devote his or her time entirely to writing poetry. In 1985 the position was renamed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.
The Hispanic Reading Room, Library of Congress
In 1939, Huntington donated a reading room, designed in a Spanish style, to the Library of Congress. One of the largest reading rooms in the Library, it was built as a place "for the pursuit of studies in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American culture," and established "with the generous cooperation of the Hispanic Society of America in extension of its service to learning". Huntington saw the need for scholarship focused on Latin America, because he believed the future of the United States was linked to Latin America's.
National Academy of Design
(building and endowment fund donated in 1940)
The National Academy of Design in New York City, founded in 1825, became a major recipient of Huntington's beneficence. In 1940, Huntington deeded this Fifth Avenue townhouse and adjoining property on 89th Street to the Academy. Huntington further extended his generosity by establishing a fund in perpetuity, which enabled the Academy to engage distinguished architect and academician William A. Delano to remodel the property to accommodate exhibition galleries. Huntington created three endowment funds, which totaled over a million dollars. His financial donations are credited with the institution's survival into the twenty-first century.16
Appropriate to Huntington's concern with architectural context, his home was presented in Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman's influential book The Decoration of Houses as the ideal unfussy, contemporary design for wealthy Americans at the turn of the century. Wharton and Ogden's book encouraged Americans to shed the dark and cluttered Victorian style, and instead focus on the crisp architectural elements which Huntington's Fifth Avenue house exemplified.
Bear Mountain Bird Sanctuary
In 1943, Huntington gave the State of New York 500 acres to establish a bird sanctuary.
Magazines Huntington Supported
Revue between 1905-1933
Romance Review 1913-1923
Journal of the American Folklore Society 1914-1922
Art Bulletin 1925-1936
Spanish Departments at Universities supported by Huntington
Columbia University: The Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and the Casa Hispánica, 1920
New York University: Spanish Research and Publication Fund
University of London: Cervantes Chair
University of Texas
University of California Berkeley
University of Pennsylvania
Additional Gifts and Contributions
Fogg Art Museum
The New-York Historical Society
Shakespeare Reading Room, Library of Congress
American Museum of Natural History
Museum of the City of New York
Sevilla Art Sevilla
Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes
Casa de Greco
1 Adelson, L. Howard, The American Numismatic Society, 1858-1958 (New York, 1958).
3 President Wilson asked Huntington to negotiate with Spain for permission to move the US military through Spain into France.
4 Untitled and anonymous partial record of the history of the American Academy of Art and Letters, Box 1, Archives American Academy of Arts and Letters. The condition of the gift stipulated that the Academy was to raise matching funds. Academy was not able to fulfill stipulation. Huntington gave fund anyhow.
5 Huntington's insistence on anonymity cannot be underestimated. It extended even to the secretarial records of Board meetings wherein, despite his attendance, Huntington's name is never mentioned. He is instead referred to as the "donor", "friend", or "angel" of the Academy.
6 See Lillian B. Miller, "The Collection of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters", in Lillian B. Miller, Nancy A. Johnson, and James Thomas Flexner, eds., Portraits from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, (Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1987). Archive File, Archer Huntington, Archives American Academy of Arts and Letters. The funds from Huntington's sale of the Rembrant painting, Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer for $660,000 to Joseph Duveen was given to the Academy.
7 The memorial by sculptor Ann Hyatt Huntington depicts a Youth Taming the Wild as symbolically representing Collis' fortitude as a builder of railroads and his initiative in ‘taming' the frontier and developing the American West.
8 The Mariner's Museum, A History and Guild (Newport News, Virginia: The Mariner's Museum, 1950)
9 Archer M. Huntington to H.L. Ferguson, President, Mariner's Museum, April 4, 1931, Archer M. Huntington Files, Box 5, Special Collections, Argents Library, Syracuse University.
10 Huntington did however as with the American Academy engage Herbert Adams at the cost of $30,000 to create the bronze doors of the museum building. (Syracuse
11 An Inventory of the Navigational and Astronomy Collections in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (National Maritime Museum, London, 1970-1982): Willem F.J. Morzer Bruyns, pp. 133-161.
12 Writes specialist in English barometers Anita McConnell.
13 This idea is interesting and has a connection with the frequent scholarly reasons for Spain's decline, that of a country turning inward, not engaging with external trade and ideas and not investing in the education of its people.
14 Huntington created a well-endowed Relief Fund administered by the NSS.
15 Huntington was deeded Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company from Collis and Arabella Huntington.
16 Cummings S. Thomas, Historical Annals of the National Academy of Design. See also Clark Eliot, History of the National Academy of Design, 1825-1953 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954).