In anticipation of the reopening of the Hispanic Museum and Library this Fall on the Audubon Terrace, we thought we might take a look at the man behind the historic Terrace ~ Archer Milton Huntington ~ and his home on Fifth Avenue.
We begin in 1900 when young Archer Milton Huntington inherited a great deal of money from his stepfather, Collis P. Huntington – a railroad magnate and founder of the Central Pacific Railroad. Young Huntington, who was brought up in the arts by his mother Arabella, went on to purchase several adjacent properties along Fifth Avenue in 1902, maintaining 1083 Fifth Avenue as his home with his wife Helen Manchester Gates, and leasing out the other properties.
The facade of the property at 1083 Fifth Avenue was transformed in 1913 to include french doors above the entrance, a deep balcony behind a stone balustrade on the fifth floor, a roof with copper trim and other details set forth by well-known architect and decorator, Ogden Codman, Jr. In addition, the house was extended to 89th Street in the back, with enough room to accommodate 25 servants.
By now, Huntington was an accomplished author, and after completing his work ‘A Flight of Birds’, he purchased approximately thirty-acres of land from 155th to 158th Streets. The land, once owned by the naturalist and artist John James Audubon was to become the cultural campus known as Audubon Terrace, which he donated as a complex for museums.
Huntington divorced Helen in 1918, having turned his affection toward the sculptress Anna Hyatt, who he married in 1923. The well-known Hyatt, who created the bronze statue of Joan of Arc in 1915, took part of the fourth and fifth floors of the Fifth Avenue mansion, originally set aside for servants, as her studio. She went on to create the famous El Cid sculpture in 1927, a monumental equestrian bronze, placed on the lower terrace at the Hispanic Society.
Huntington was a true philanthropist, donating land and money to provide for the building of the Museum of the American Indian, The Brookgreen Sculpture Gardens in South Carolina, The Hispanic Society and Museum, The American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Mariners’ Musein in Newport News and others.
In 1940, Archer Huntington donated his home at 1083 Fifth Avenue to the National Academy of Design, now the National Academy Museum and School, for its headquarters, and Archer and Anna moved to ‘the country’ ~ now known as Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Archer Huntington passed away in December, 1955. Anna Hyatt Huntington kept a small apartment in the Academy, of which she was a member, until her death at the age of 97 in 1973. They had no children.
The property at 1083 Fifth Avenue is primarily unchanged since the Codman renovation in 1914, however the other three adjacent properties along Fifth Avenue, were demolished and replaced by the white brick building in the photo below.
1083 Fifth Avenue is currently located next to The Church of Heavenly Rest (above) between 89th and 90th Street and a block in either direction from Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum to the north and The Guggenheim just south.
The National Academy Museum and Library put its headquarters, 1083 Fifth Avenue, on the market, selling for $25 million in 2018. According to the listing with Corcoran, the mansion “boasts a Hauteville marble staircase with wrought iron wave design balustrades, a 51-foot oval gallery, also known as The Adam Room, a deep-hued walnut paneled drawing room, two master suites, 3 guest bedrooms, 9 staff rooms, and elevator.”
Over the years, the public has frequented the building while it was home to The National Academy Museum and School. Images above and below are a few images we took during the exhibition, Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie in 2014, giving a nice sense of the interior space.
On a visit to the building this week, we noticed french doors wide open and workmen moving around inside. We also learned from a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing in March, 2022, that the beautiful, historic structure will once again become a private residence ~ keeping the integrity of its historic features, and hopefully adding a low wall/planter on either side of the entrance.
1083 Fifth Avenue is across the street from the Reservoir in Central Park on Museum Mile.
The Hispanic Society of American, entrance onto Audubon Terrace (above) and an image of the second floor of the Museum, below ~ is expected to reopen in October, 2019. Read about the sale of 130 historic photographs by the Hispanic Society of America to an unknown buyer, who donated them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018.