August 7, 2003 - San Marino, CA

Reading is certainly a popular summer favorite. "Kate Remembered" has become a huge seller since Katharine Hepburn passed away, Oprah has gotten her viewers back to Steinbeck's "East of Eden," and Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabuscuit" has generated a renewed interest thanks to the movie release.

I'm not an avid reader, but I did discover a pretty good biography this summer. It's a turn of the century yarn that involves big business, money, power, divorce, and the procurement of one of the most amazing book and art collections in Southern California.

The story of Henry Edwards Huntington [below] is not a page-turning potboiler, but it does fill in some additional details about another Southern California entrepreneur.

The City of Huntington Park, Huntington Drive, Huntington Hospital and Huntington Beach, were all named for Henry Huntington. He was also, among his other accomplishments, the creator of the extensive Pacific Electric Railway system.

Begun in 1900, the rail system traveled throughout Southern California and, by 1914, was considered to be one of the best public transportations systems in the world.

And while also embroiled in a bit of scandal when he married his uncle's widow Arabella, Henry Huntington was a beloved businessman, city planner, philanthropist, celebrity, and art and book collector during the first part of the 20th Century.

In 1919, Huntington and his wife converted their 150-acre estate into The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. The home and library [called simply The Huntington] is a wonderful oasis in an already wonderfully toney neighborhood.

We have lived in Pasadena for 5 years and have never visited The Huntington, so we were excited to check out this destination. For us, it is a new summer find.

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