Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hunting down Huntington

>, originally uploaded by PALMETT0.

It may appear that the Windveil has come upon the ruins of an ancient castle or the abandoned halls of some former colony or even a military installation long ago quit by its troops. A closer look might suggest the rambling retreat of an inspired eccentric now gone to weather. In each case you would be right. It has been all of those things.

From the photo many could be convinced that this place is in any of many exotic places on the globe, but the fact is that we're looking a piece of land just a few hundred yards on the ocean side of The Ocean Highway ( US 17 ) and right across that road from Brookgreen Gardens. See the previous posting on that.

The lawn behind the GT is little more than a grassy bog so there was no way to draw the car nearer. Even this far away the viewer can see that it doesn't fit any known architectural mold largely because there wasn't one.

This massive and convoluted building is literally a maze of uniquely designed rooms, porches, passageways, living and working areas all of which was begun in the early days of the Depression. Archer Huntington selected this site and literally designed the construction via written and verbal messages directly to the contractor. The absence of an architect is often an asset especially in downtown Charleston these days, but this is ever so inspired a structure largely due to that fact. All of this is now a S.C. State Park and nicely kept. The name originally given to this settlement by the Huntingtons is " ATALAYA ".

Anna Hyatt Huntington was a sculptress who plied her art and craft and invited others to do the same at ATALAYA . Some rooms were clearly designed to take advantage of natural light which may have been the only illumination in those days of fragile utilities. It is a very interesting building in both form and suggested function. It is unlikely that anyone will be reminded of any other building when touring this one.

During World War II, the family turned the place over to the military to use as a radar station and coastal defense implacement.

Archer Huntington poured staggering sums of money into this project which by today's dollar would easily build several large hotels. It's a pleasure to visit and the State does a great job of maintaining ATALAYA, but at Five bucks a head for admission, some might suspect that Mr. Huntington is trying to recoup his investment from the great beyond.


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