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A New York City Jewel: The Hispanic Society of America


When visiting crowded and bustling Manhattan, it can be refreshing to escape the crowds and still enjoy a first class exhibit with pizazz. That is what the Hispanic Society of America has to offer.

Admission is Free

My guess is that after visiting The Hispanic Society most visitors are so overwhelmed by the beauty of the building and its contents that they not only donate, but donate more than the suggested $10 per person.

The entrance to The Hispanic Society of America.

El Cid, the museum’s signature statue, is reflected in the left glass door.

When visiting crowded and bustling Manhattan, it can be refreshing to escape the crowds and still enjoy a first class exhibit with pizazz. That is what the Hispanic Society of America has to offer. It demonstrates the passion of its creator, Archer Milton Huntington (1870 —1955) for the art and culture of Spain and Portugal. For further zing, Archer’s own birth history adds zest.

The gigantic El Cid immediately across from the museum entrance.

It was sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington, Archer Huntington’s second wife.

The blue sky above the background building for El Cid is reflected in the white snow below the statue.

Though he was the stepson of the railroad magnate and industrialist, Collis P. Huntington, some rumored that his step-father was also his father. This was in spite of the fact that Arabella Yarrington, Archer’s mother, was not married to Collis Huntington at the time of his birth. In 1870 America this was scandalous!

The opulent entrance to the museum.

The Portrait of the Duchess of Alba by Francisco De Goya, 1797 awaits the visitor.

Now, let’s raise our head above hearsay and get back to the young Archer. He was driven by vision. By the time the lad was nineteen, he expressed his wish to establish a “Spanish Museum.” We know he had the resources from his parents. His aspiration was fulfilled in 1904 when the free museum and library were founded by him.

The view to the left after entering the museum. It is magnificent as is the vista to the right.

A painting that represents the spirit of the museum. In this so-called Caste painting a Mestizo man (of mixed race, especially the offspring of a Spaniard and an Indian) accompanies an Indian woman and their offspring termed a Coyote. Juan Rodrigues Juarez (Mexico, 1728).

The museum includes paintings, decorative arts, archeological specimens, sculptures, prints, and photographs, plus a library. The latter includes some of the first books published in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico, countries that are derivatives of Spain. It is interesting to note that among the many early photographs commissioned by Huntington to chronicle disappearing rural Spain are those taken by women. It seems Archer Huntington had a predilection for hiring the female species. In this, he was far ahead of his time. By report, he even employed women deaf mutes. The star among his group of traveling women photographers was Ruth Matilda Anderson.

Huntington also engaged an impressionist Spanish artist to paint disappearing Spain, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923). Sorolla spent 8 years of his life in this endeavor. The result is displayed in an octagonal room at the West end of the museum. This one of kind and unique set of paintings offers the visitor a vision of Spain from the early 1900’s.

Part of the panorama by Sorolla in its own dedicated room at The Hispanic Society of America. .

There is only one reason people would not visit this museum. It is because the location can be perceived as difficult. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The exhibition hall is at Broadway between 155th and 156th Street in Washington Heights. The Metro C line as well as the 1 line have stops just a few blocks from the museum. Walking to The Hispanic Society from either stop is easy.

The Hispanic Society of America is in brown in the upper left atop the green patch designating the Trinity Cemetery. The Hudson River is to the left. The Harlem River is to the right. The C line metro is in blue just under 155th Street one block to the right of the two continuous green patches. The metro 1 line at 157th Street is also shown in blue. Both are within several easy walking blocks of the museum. From Google Maps.

When traveling North on Broadway, this is the sign that indicates a turn to the Left is needed. The museum does not face Broadway. Rather, its side is to this main thoroughfare.

All photos by the author.

For More:

History: A Day Trip from NYC

Greek Revival Mansion a Day Trip from NYC

Beyond Manhattan: The Borough of Brooklyn

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