For me, this place is The Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens. First visited as a fifteen-year-old teenager, when entry was still free and to which I have returned many times over the decades since.
After amassing his fantastic wealth, Henry Huntington wanted to establish a legacy in the style of the great philanthropists of the East Coast such as the institutions established by Henry Clay Frick and J. Pierpont Morgan, whose fine collections were made available for scholars and displayed to the general public.
Regarding his belief in his ambition to build his great library, gallery and botanical garden, he is quoted as stating “The Huntington Library is not for a day only. If we envision the future, I believe the Pacific Coast will one day be the center of culture extending around the world.” His words turned out to be greatly prophetic.
Construction began in 1909 using local architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey and was designed using an eclectic combination of Roman, Renaissance and Baroque elements. They also built a number of outbuildings such as a garage (now used as the Boone Gallery) and a bowling alley/billiards room (now used as the Rose Garden Tea Room).
In 1919 he commissioned Hunt and Grey to construct a great library building on his estate.
The European collection spans the 15th through the 20th centuries. After Arabella’s death, Henry expanded the eighteenth-century French collection in her honor.
Unfortunately, our latest visit was in January and the Rose Garden was for the most part pruned and bare. But my favorites, the Camillias, were doing their best to bloom!