H. H. Hunnewell

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Horatio Hollis Hunnewell (July 27, 1810 – May 20, 1902), was a railroad financier, philanthropist, amateur botanist, and one of the most prominent horticulturists in America in the nineteenth century. Mr. Hunnewell was a partner in the private banking firm of Welles & Co. Paris, France controlled by his in-laws which specialized in trade finance between the two countries. Practicing horticulture for nearly six decades on his estate in Wellesley, Massachusetts, he was perhaps the first person to cultivate and popularize rhododendrons in the United States.

Biography[edit]

H.H. Hunnewell estate, topiary section on the shore of Lake Waban, Wellesley, Massachusetts (1909).

He was born on July 27, 1810. Hunnewell was a director of the Illinois Central Railroad in 1862-1871, railroad entrepreneur in Kansas beginning in the 1860s, and president of the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad[1] and Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Railroad around 1880. He died at home in Wellesley on May 20, 1902, at age 91.[2] Hunnewell was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, among his family.

Estate and arboretum[edit]

Both the town of Wellesley (founded 1881) and Wellesley College (chartered 1870) are named for Hunnewell's estate, "Wellesley", which he named for the family of his wife, Isabella Pratt Welles. The H.H. Hunnewell estate includes a prominent 1851 house designed by Arthur Gilman with attached conservatory and gate lodges of 1865-1866 designed by Gridley J.F. Bryant, a pinetum of 325 specimen conifers, a complex of specialty greenhouses, and one of the first topiary gardens - the 'Italian Garden' - in America, all of which are still standing.

The estate is part of the Hunnewell Estates Historic District, which includes the estates of many of his descendants. Among other miscellaneous activities, Hunnewell owned the home in which Horatio Alger's father lived until his death, now called the Horatio Alger House in Natick, Massachusetts. Oliver Bacon had built this house about 1824, and sold it in 1869 to Hunnewell. In 1909, Hunnewell deeded the property to the First Unitarian Church of South Natick as a parsonage.

Philanthropy[edit]

H. H. Hunnewell made a donation in 1873 that helped Asa Gray revise and complete his Flora of North America. He also funded the conifer collection at Arnold Arboretum, Boston, Massachusetts, and donated the Arboretum's administration building (now Hunnewell Building) in 1892.

Hunnewell was a friend and neighbor of Henry Fowle Durant (1822-1881), who founded Wellesley College on Lake Waban directly across from Hunnewell's estate. Hunnewell made a donation to the College for Eliot Dormitory in 1887, and endowed the College's Chair of Botany in 1901.

The town of Wellesley's greatest benefactor, Hunnewell built and donated the Town Hall and Free Library building (completed 1885). (The Wellesley Free Library has since moved to a new building.) He was also a frequent donor, often anonymously, to many town causes.

Legacy[edit]

The railroad towns of Hunnewell, Kansas, and Hunnewell, Missouri, were named in his honor.[3] The Wellesley College Botanic Gardens has a distinct Hunnewell Arboretum, named in his honor, across the lake. Rhododendron hunnewellianum also honors him.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Official Railway List. Chicago: Railway Purchasing Agent Company. 1888. p. 103. 
  2. ^ "H. H. Hunnewell Dead. Well-Known Financier and Business Man. Long Prominent in the Direction of Several Western Railroads. Public Spirited and Generous and a Horticulturalist of Note". New York Times. May 21, 1902. Retrieved October 7, 2010. "Horatio Hollis Hunnewell of Wellesley, well known in Boston and indeed throughout the state, died yesterday at Wellesley, aged 91. Death was due to heart disease, but Mr Hunnewell had been in poor health ever since he ..." 
  3. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 163. 

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