Henry Edwards Huntington (February 27, 1850 – May 23, 1927) was an American railroad magnate and collector of art and rare books. Huntington settled in Los Angeles, where he owned the Pacific Electric Railway as well as substantial real estate interests. In addition to being a businessman and art collector, Huntington was a major booster for Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
History in Southern California
Born in Oneonta, New York, Henry E. Huntington was the nephew of Collis P. Huntington, one of The Big Four, the men instrumental in creating the Central Pacific Railroad (later called Southern Pacific), one of the two railroads that built the transcontinental railway in 1869. Huntington held several executive positions working alongside his uncle with the Southern Pacific. After Collis P. Huntington's death, Henry E. Huntington assumed Collis Huntington's leadership role with Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Virginia, and married his widow Arabella Huntington. His divorce from his first wife, Mary Alice Prentice, birth sister of his Uncle Collis' adopted daughter, in 1910 and marriage to Arabella in 1913 after Mary Alice's death shocked San Francisco society. He had four children with Mary Alice: Howard Edward, Clara Leonora, Elizabeth Vincent, and Marian Prentice, but none with Arabella. Arabella's son Archer, from her prior marriage from which she was widowed, had earlier been adopted by Collis.
In 1898, in friendly competition with his uncle's Southern Pacific, Huntington bought the narrow gauge, city oriented Los Angeles Railway (LARy) known colloquially as the 'Yellow Car' system. In 1901, Huntington formed the sprawling interurban, standard gauge Pacific Electric Railway (the PE), known as the 'Red Car' system, centered at 6th and Main Streets in Los Angeles. Huntington succeeded in this competition by providing passenger friendly streetcars on 24/7 schedules, which the railroads couldn't match. This was facilitated by the boom in Southern California land development where houses were built in places such as Orange County's Huntington Beach, a Huntington-sponsored development, where streetcars served passenger needs that the railroads had never considered. Connectivity to Downtown Los Angeles made such suburbs feasible.
By 1910, the Huntington trolley systems stretched over approximately 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of southern California. At its most robust size, the system contained over 20 streetcar lines and 1,250 trolleys, most running through the core of Los Angeles and serving such nearby neighborhoods as the Crenshaw district, West Adams, Echo Park, Westlake, Hancock Park, Exposition Park, Vernon, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights; The system integrated the 1902 acquisition, the Mount Lowe Scenic Railway above Altadena, California in the San Gabriel Mountains.
In 1905 Huntington, A. Kingsley Macomber, and William R. Staats developed the Oak Knoll subdivision, located to the west of his San Marino estate in the oak-covered hilly terrain near Pasadena.
In 1906 Huntington, along with Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn, and Charles M. Loring, formed the Huntington Park Association, with the intent to purchase Mount Rubidoux in Riverside, build a road to the summit, and develop the hill as a park to benefit the city of Riverside. The road was completed in February 1907. The property was later donated to the city of Riverside by the heirs of Frank Miller, and today the hill is a 161-acre (0.65 km2; 0.252 sq mi) city park.
Huntington was a Life Member of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California.
Huntington retired from active business in 1916. In 1927 Henry E. Huntington died in Philadelphia while undergoing surgery. He and Arabella are buried, with a large monument, in the Gardens of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.
The Huntington Hotel was originally named Hotel Wentworth when it opened its doors on February 1, 1907. Financial problems and a disappointing first season forced the Hotel Wentworth to close its doors indefinitely. Henry Huntington purchased the Hotel Wentworth in 1911, renaming it the Huntington Hotel. It reopened in 1914, transformed into a beautiful winter resort. The 1920s were a prosperous time for the hotel, as Midwestern and Eastern entrepreneurs discovered California's warm winter climate.
The hotel's reputation for fine service began with long-time general manager and later owner Stephen W. Royce. By 1926, the hotel's success prompted Royce to open the property year-round. The "golden years" ended with the stock market crash and the Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. However, by the end of the 1930s the hotel was back on solid ground. When World War II began, all reservations were cancelled and the hotel was rented to the Army for $3,000 a month. Following the war, the Huntington's fortunes turned upward once again. In 1954 Stephen Royce sold the hotel to the Sheraton Corporation, remaining as the general manager until his retirement in 1969. The hotel continued operating until 1985, when it was forced to close because of its inability to meet earthquake standards. The unusual structure had been completely built of un-reinforced concrete in 1906.
After a two-and-a-half year major renovation, the hotel reopened in March 1991 as the Ritz Carlton Huntington Hotel and Spa. The hotel completed a $19 million renovation in January 2006; it changed hands in early 2007 and became Langham Brand International, Huntington Hotel & Spa.
Huntington left a prominent legacy with the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens on his former estate in San Marino near Pasadena. Other legacies in California includes the cities Huntington Beach and Huntington Park, as well as Huntington Lake.
Also in greater Los Angeles are the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, Henry E. Huntington Middle School in San Marino, and the grand boulevard, Huntington Drive, running eastbound from downtown Los Angeles. Its landscaped central parkway was previously the right-of-way for the Northern Division of the Pacific Electric.
Riverside's city park on Mount Rubidoux was originally named Huntington Park, and the road to the top was named Huntington Drive. After Frank Miller's heirs donated the property to the city, the city renamed the park the Frank A. Miller Rubidoux Memorial Park, and the road has become known as Mount Rubidoux Drive. A plaque that was dedicated to Huntington in 1907, in recognition of his contributions to the development of Mount Rubidoux, remains on a large boulder known as Huntington Rock. After Huntington's death a second tablet was placed on the north side of the hill at a place named the Huntington Shrine.
His legacy on the East Coast includes: the Huntington Park on the James River in Newport News, Virginia at one end of the James River Bridge, community landmark named in his honor; and the Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta, New York,
As well as a portrait by Oswald Birley at the Huntington Library portraits of Huntington were also painted by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury who built a studio less than a mile from Huntington's estate in San Marino in 1924-25: a full-length, based on a photograph, is at the Collis Potter & Howard Edwards Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, and two seated versions, a small one of which was acquired by Huntington's son-in-law John Metcalf, and a larger one (which is presumed lost) which was engraved by an artist called Witherspoon in 1928. The artist also painted Huntington's granddaughter Mary Brockway Metcalf (and this is on long-term loan to the offices of the Director of the Huntington Library and Art Gallery).