Atalaya: The Huntington Winter Home
Visiting and Viewing Atalaya
The grounds and the building are open daily. During the off season you are strictly on your own. During the busier summer season there are one hour guided tours. Taking a guided tour is well worth doing a bit of planning for, as the docents that lead the tour really help Atalaya come to life.
Archer and Anna Huntington, he a well to do son of one of the country's original robber barons and she a famous sculptor, bought property that includes the current Huntington State Park in 1930. The entire extent of their purchase extended over more than 9,000 acres and included forest, swamp, rice fields and beachfront. Their plan was to build a winter home that overlooked the ocean.
Anna had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1927 and the Huntington's felt it would be better for her to spend her winter in a place like South Carolina rather than New York City. The property they bought was originally four adjacent rice plantations. These had been in existence since before the civil war and, like many such places in the south, had once been sustained by slave labor. The Huntington's paid about a quarter of a million dollars for the property. An later purchase of another piece of land added to the original size of their holdings.
The name they chose to call what was to become their new house was Atalaya. The name in Spanish means watchtower. Archer was an Spanish historian and he designed the house after Mediterranean coastline Moorish architecture. The building of the house took close to three years. Built during the great depression, Archer hired local folks to build the house and take care of the needs of the many workman. He consciously felt compelled to do what he could to help the local people that were going through some hard times.
The house and grounds include more than 30 rooms. The structure of the house is built around a perimeter that is 200 yards on a side. This created a large enclosed courtyard in the center of the grounds. The back of Atalaya opened towards the beach dunes. While it is only a one story house, the centerpiece of Atalaya is its one feature that rises above the modest height of the living areas. This is a forty foot square sided water tower. The 3,000 gallon tank in the tower provided water, at a decent pressure, throughout the home.
On the south side of the home was a large studio for Anna's sculpting work. Her love of creating animal statues and using them as elements with people also led to this area having a small stable. Despite this large work area the large majority of Anna's works were not created at Atalaya.
The property that was to eventually become Huntington State Park is but a portion of the original Huntington property. Brookhaven Gardens is directly across the highway from the park and is another section of their original holdings. The gardens were established in during the time Atalaya was being built. Today it is home to many Anna Huntington's sculptures.
A Glimpse of Atalaya
Here is a Youtube video that shows what you will see when you walk around the building and grounds at Atalaya.
The Arts and Crafts Festival
At the end of September Atalaya serves as the centerpiece for the multi-day Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival. Over 100 artisans come to show and sell their creations. You can also enjoy the local cuisine of what is known as the "Lowcounty," as numerous food vendors are also part of the festival. In keeping with the local culture theme musical entertainment is provided by local musicians.
There is a fee for entry into the festival and you can pay for one day entry or a multi-day pass.
For more information you can call Huntington Beach State Park 843-237-4440.