1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, Ca 91108.
(626) 405-2100. huntington.org
By C. MacDonald
SAN MARINO, CA—The internationally-acclaimed Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is a must visit to bask in the grandeur of 120 acres of sensational gardens, four art galleries and a library featuring some of the World's greatest original books.
Founded by railroad and real estate magnate Henry E. Huntington, whose company also developed the city, "Huntington Beach," The Huntington is full of "wow" and "awe." In the Huntington Art Gallery you'll see European Artwork, such as a breathtaking 1771 French Writing Desk called "Bonheur du Jour," meaning "the happy time of the day" (when folks would write their friends). The magnificent piece is made out of tulipwood, sycamore, soft paste porcelain, brass and glass. There's also an 1810 Mantel Clock that still offers the correct time. The French timepiece is made out of marble, gilt bronze, biscuit porcelain and blued copper enamel.
A really cute 1880 Tea Table is spectacular. Paintings abound to the delight of your eye, from Rogier van der Weyden's 15th Century masterpiece, "Madonna and Child" (considered by many the most important painting at The Huntington) to a wonderful 1777 portrait of Karl Friedrich Abel by Thomas Gainsborough. Abel, a prolific composer, is sitting at a table with his pen resting on the first bar of a new musical score. There's even an American Art Gallery with exquisite paintings and sculptures by world-renowned Frederick Remington, Gilbert Stuart and Edward Hopper and others.
Many large size paintings, and even, books, make it easy for kids and people of all ages to view the absolute magnificence of The Huntington. One of my favorite places is Library Exhibition Hall, where you can see John James Audubon's gigantic book, "Two Birds of America," made with his original drawings from 1827-33. You'll also be astonished by a real Gutenberg Bible, the first major book printed with a movable type printing press that started the Age of Books. The 42-Line Bible was printed by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany 1452-55. There's also Jack London's original manuscript, showing his handwriting while creating his book, "Martin Eden," a novel about a struggling young writer.
Be sure and see the History of Science Exhibit, showing ideas that changed the world. You can look through a replica of Galileo's telescope and get a real feel for the earliest magnified view of the night sky. You also can peer through replicas of early microscopes to get a better understanding of how scientists make their observations.
The problem you have at The Huntington is running out of time. You literally need to see it over and over to appreciate all it has to offer. The Botanical Gardens feature more than 14,000 different kinds of plants in over a dozen areas, including Jungle, Rose, Fragrance, Chinese, Japanese, Palm, Children's, and Shakespeare. The last pays tribute to the Library's collection of early editions of Shakespeare and includes a number of plants and flowers mentioned in The Bard's plays. A small plaque next to each of these plants quotes a line or verse, i.e., "It was the nightingale, and not the lark, That pierc'd the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate tree..." (Romeo and Juliet, Act. III, Scene V).
If you get hungry during your visit, why not enjoy some tasty meals at the Rose Garden Tea Room and Cafe. (Friendly Huntington associates on the grounds will gladly direct you to this and other areas. ) We watched our delicious chicken sandwiches prepared before us.