In 1930 Archer Huntington purchased Brookgreen (1760) and three adjoining plantations in South Carolina as a site for a winter home for he and his wife, Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. She was known for her animal and garden sculptors. Archer was a millionaire philanthropist, son of a railroad tycoon. Anna and Archer met in 1921 and married in 1923. They were both born March 10th, exactly six years apart. They were 53 and 47 when they married, neither had been married before. They first came to Georgetown County in 1929 looking for property to build a winter home as Anna had been diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Her doctor told them New York City winters were bad for her. Tuberculosis is a chronic condition, but Anna’s illness was arrested and she was able to recuperate and enjoy a long life, creating new sculptures into her nineties. In addition to the house they built Brookgreen Botanical & Sculpture Gardens for Anna to exhibit her work. Today these gardens are open to the public and include many of her sculptures. We haven’t been there yet. Next trip down!
Atalaya (ah-ta-LIE-yah) a Spanish term for watchtower, was began in 1931, apparently without detailed written plans. Archer Huntington, a noted authority on Spanish culture, designed the house after the Moorish architecture of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Workers alternated between construction on Atalaya and Brookgreen Gardens over a two to three year period. Mr. Huntington insisted that local labor be utilized in its construction to provide work opportunities for local residents during the Great Depression. Because of this project electricity was run to the town of Georgetown SC much earlier than it would have been and the residents of Georgetown were greatly impacted in many positive ways by the Huntingtons.
The outer walls of the building form a square, with the east side facing the ocean. Within the walled structure, there are two grassy open inner courtyards with a main entry court on the west side. The living quarters consist of 30 rooms around three sides of the perimeter. The one-story brick building is dominated by a square tower (the watchtower) that rises nearly 40 ft. from a covered walkway and bisects the inner court. It is functional in design, having once contained a 3,000-gallon cypress water tank. Water drawn form an artesian well was then pumped into a 10,000-gallon concrete intern where the sand settled. From there, it was pumped into the tower tank. The height of this tank gave the water enough pressure to flow through the house.
The covered walkway of open brickwork is lined with archways and planters on both sides. Living facilities, including the dining room, sunroom, library and bedrooms, occupied the ocean-facing side of the house. The southern wing housed Mr. Huntington’s spacious study, his secretary’s office and Mrs. Huntington’s studio. The studio, with a 25-foot skylight, opened onto a small enclosed courtyard where she worked on her sculptures. Due to her passion for sculpting animals, Mrs. Huntington had facilities such as horse stables, a dog kennel and a bear pen included in the construction. The Huntingtons resided in the house during the colder months of the year, usually form November until March or April.
Heating was done entirely by using coal room heaters and wood-burning fireplaces. Ramps led from the courtyards up to each entry door, and wood was hauled in using small carts. Grillwork – designed by Mrs. Huntington – and shutters were installed on each window to protect against hurricane-force winds.
After Mr. Huntington’s death in 1955, most of the furnishing from the house where sent to the Huntington home in New York City. The equipment from Mrs. Huntington’s studio was transferred to the new studio at Brookgreen Gardens. The 2,500 acre tract, including Atalaya, was leased to the state by the Brookgreen Trustees in 1960. Mrs. Huntington died at her Connecticut home in 1973. In tribute to Mrs. Huntington, the annual Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival is held in the Castle during the fourth weekend of September. ~from brochure at castle
Because no architect was used and only inexperienced local help to build the house the foundation wasn’t laid properly. The bricks were laid right on the sand! There are many cracks in the walls and the building has shifted notably. Not to mention the damage done when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989 and the storm tides reached and filled the house with ocean! The docent told us the house was always damp and cold and roaring fires had to be going in all the rooms. Such a shame a gorgeous home like this and it was only really lived in for 25 years or so and is not habital now. Had it been built correctly it might still be livable. Another good hurricane and it probably won’t be open to the public any longer. Here are more pictures I took around the house. If you’d like to see an aerial view of it to get an idea of how it was laid out better check it out HERE and HERE.
It was a very HOT day and I hope you wore your sunscreen! Now lets take a quick dip in the ocean. Last one in is a rotten egg!