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Henry Huntington: A Southern California Icon

The name “Huntington” is one that is heard routinely throughout Orange County and other parts of Southern California. Yet, many people do not know the history of the man behind the name. An American railroad magnate, Henry Edwards Huntington owned the Pacific Electric Railway as well as a significant amount of real estate in the area. As such, he played a significant role in helping to build up Los Angeles and the surrounding area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Huntington’s Impact on Southern California

The nephew of Collis P. Huntington, who was one of The Big Four of men who were instrumental in the creation of the Central Pacific Railroad, Henry Huntington held several executive positions while working alongside his uncle. In 1898, he purchased the Los Angeles Railway before going on to form the Pacific Electric Railway three years later. By offering passenger-friendly streetcars 24 hours per day, Huntington’s railway systems were a step ahead of the railroads that were previously in service. In addition, his railway systems contributed to the boom in land development in Southern California as they serviced areas that railroads had never considered.

By 1910, Huntington trolley systems were sprawled across approximately 1,300 miles of Southern California. At its peak, the system has 20 streetcar lines and 1,250 trolleys. Huntington retired from active business in 1916, but the impact of his developments is still felt throughout Southern California and his name lives on in many ways.

The Huntington Legacy

The Huntington name can be seen in many places throughout Southern California. Among the most prominent of his legacies is the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, which is located on his former estate in San Marino. In addition to being one of the top institutions in the world for the study of the history of science and technology, the library houses an extensive art collection focusing on 18th and 19th-century European art and 17th to mid-20th-century American art. The property also boasts 120 acres of landscaped gardens, including the “Desert Garden,” the “Japanese Garden” and the “Chinese Garden.”

Huntington Beach, Huntington Park and Huntington Lake are all named in Huntington’s honor, as is Huntington Hospital in Pasadena and Henry E. Huntington Middle School in San Marino. Huntington Drive, which runs eastbound from downtown Los Angeles, was also named after Henry Huntington.

The city park of Mount Rubidoux in Riverside was originally named Huntington Park with the road at the top being named Huntington Drive. While the park has since been renamed, a plaque dedicated to Huntington in 1907 can still be found on a large boulder within the park known as Huntington Rock. Following his death, an additional plaque was added on the north side of the hill in a place known as Huntington Shrine.

The Huntington Hotel in Pasadena is another of Huntington’s legacies, with Huntington purchasing the failing Hotel Wentworth in 1911 and reopening it in 1914 under its new name. Huntington transformed the hotel into a beautiful winter resort , forging a reputation for fine service. Following a long history of ups and downs that included a variety of different owners, the hotel was most recently purchased by Langham Brand International and renamed Huntington Hotel & Spa.

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