March 10 remains a triple-decker day every year for Huntington Beach State Park and Brookgreen Gardens. The cross-street neighbors on U.S. 17 between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach mark the mutual birthdays and wedding anniversary of the couple who in 1931-33 built their winter home at the park and established the gardens.
The lives of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington are always celebrated with a 3-in-1 day in the home, Atalaya, which like Brookgreen, carries a National Historic Landmark designation.
The Friends of Huntington Beach State Park group will remember the artists and philanthropists with “A Grand Tea Party,” 1-4 p.m. Monday at Atalaya, close to the beach, with an afternoon of history and nature art-themed activities across the home.
Joan Crow of Murrells Inlet, an Atalaya tour docent and one of about 150 members in the Friends group, shared some details about helping coordinate this day. Funds raised go toward projects to improve park amenities.
Question | How long has this been an annual tradition by the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park?
Answer | Since 2003, when we started our organization. But actually, the former park superintendent and his wife used to have a small ceremony on ... March 10, so it’s been going on a long time.
Q. | Going from the annual “3-in-1 Day” to “A Grand Tea Party,” what prompted a change in the program for March 10, 2014?
A. | Just that we have been doing the same thing year after year, and someone came up with the idea to have a tea party. ... It has been getting bigger and bigger every year, so we said, let’s change the format, and it’s probably more in keeping with what the Huntingtons had done. Because they were pretty private people, there’s a good possibility they would have had more intimate celebrations.
Q. | What new things are being learned about the Huntingtons, or what special trait about them has intrigued you?
A. | In most of the photographs that we have of Archer, he looks to be a very stern person, and we found out something from his great nephew, when he was here, Archer Huntington Mayor. ... He said that with his “Uncle Archer,” ... they surprised him on occasion and that he did have a wit and he could be quite humorous.
And he said that one point of time, family members had asked Archer Huntington why all of the homes they lived in looked very similar. They were all built of brick and they were not furnished lavishly, but were utilitarian. Archer Huntington’s comment was that he likes houses that could be cleaned with a hose. If I’m doing a tour, I get that in somewhere, and people laugh, saying, “I never would have thought that of him.”
Q. | What partners will add their own touch to the tea party?
A. | We have a variety of special guests. They include Danny McLaughlin, a well-known artist from here to Charleston; he will be painting during the event, and this is what he does every year: He donates the painting for a drawing. Robin Salmon is vice president for collections at Brookgreen Gardens. ... In the past two years, she had brought some of Mrs. Huntington’s act sculptural tools and a couple of her sculptures.
Sandra Barnes is a member of our group; she will ... have some of her photographs, and she is donating of one of them, which she will frame for a drawing. She just did a slideshow for our group at the park nature center – just awesome, with pictures from around the park, all the animals, and different scenes of Atalaya. Our big highlight will be at 3 p.m., with Lee Brockington from Hobcaw Barony; she will be our featured speaker.
Q. | What Friends projects made 2013 memorable, and what’s in store for 2014?
A. | Last year, we were able to rebuild the boardwalk at the north end of the beach. We have provided money for projects for the preservation of Atalaya, and in fact, a lot of the windows have been replaced with glass; there was Plexiglas in some of them, so they have been replaced and reglazed.
The boardwalk was a big one; that went on for several months. That was a real labor of love between park maintenance staff and people from the Friends who were able to help. ...
We do what we can financially, and we’ll provide volunteer assistance. That’s really our function: We’re there to help the park. Any funds that we get from a fundraiser or from donations ... all go right back into the park projects of some kind. ...
We have regular activities we participate in, such as the “Coastal Birding” program, tours of Atalaya, and the “Alligators” program, and we help staff the visitor center and the nature center, and we do cleanup.
Q. | What has been your favorite sighting at the park, with its causeway leading to a world of wildlife?
A. | With the birds, I have a favorite one: roseate spoonbills. They’re beautiful and fun to watch. ... And I like the beauty of Atalaya. We have been there to set up for programs just when the sun’s coming up from the ocean. To see that sunlight coming through the brickwork, it’s just awesome. ...
It’s really like a little slice of heaven, sort of a little treasure trove we have down here.