Huntington Hartford

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Huntington Hartford
Huntington Hartford.jpg
Hartford in 1968
Born George Huntington Hartford II
(1911-04-18)April 18, 1911
New York City
Died May 19, 2008(2008-05-19) (aged 97)
Lyford Cay, Bahamas
Education St. Paul's School
Harvard University
Occupation Heir to the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company fortune, philanthropist and businessman
Spouse(s) Mary Lee Eppling
Marjorie Steele
Diane Brown
Elaine Kay
Children Edward Colt
Catherine Hartford
John Hartford
Juliet Hartford
Parents Edward V. Hartford
Henrietta Guerard Pollitzer

George Huntington Hartford II (April 18, 1911 – May 19, 2008) was an heir to the A&P supermarket fortune.

When he died in 2008, obituaries noted that, Hartford "had once ranked among the world's richest people".[1][2] Hartford was an American businessman, philanthropist, filmmaker, and art collector. He owned Paradise Island[3] in the Bahamas, and had numerous other business and real estate interests over his lifetime including the Oil Shale Corporation (TOSCO),[4] which he founded in 1955.

Huntington's father, Edward V. Hartford (1870–1922), died when Huntington was 11, leaving the son as one of the heirs to the estate left by his grandfather and namesake, George Huntington Hartford.[5] Huntington's mother, Henrietta Guerard Pollitzer (1881–1948), moved her family to Newport, Rhode Island and sent Huntington away to school. He ultimately graduated from Harvard in 1934 but only briefly worked for A&P. For the rest of his life, Huntington focused on numerous other business and charitable enterprises.[6]

Huntington was married four times, all ending in divorce, and had four children. He lived the last years of his life in the Bahamas with his daughter, Juliet.[6]


Huntington Hartford was born in New York City to Edward V. Hartford and Henrietta Guerard Pollitzer. He was named George Huntington Hartford II, for his grandfather, George Huntington Hartford, owner of the A&P grocery store chain, but never used his first name.

His father Edward was a successful inventor and manufacturer who perfected the automotive shock absorber. Along with his brothers, George Ludlum Hartford and John Augustine Hartford, Edward was also an heir to the A&P fortune and served as A&P's corporate secretary as well as one of three trustees that controlled A&P's stock.

After Huntington's birth, the family moved to Deal, New Jersey, a wealthy community on the Atlantic shore.[6] When Huntington's father died when he was 11, his mother moved the family to a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island known as "Seaverge" next to Rough Point, the mansion owned by tobacco heiress Doris Duke. The family also lived on a 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) plantation in South Carolina called "Wando" as well as an apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.[7]

Huntington was sent to St. Paul's School then majored in English literature at Harvard University.[6]

His mother intended Huntington to marry Doris Duke, but in April 1931, Huntington married Mary Lee Epling, the 18-year-old daughter of a dentist from Covington, West Virginia. After his graduation from Harvard in 1934, he went to work at A&P headquarters in New York in the statistical department. He lived on a trust fund that generated about $1.5 million per year.

His wife, Mary Lee, began dating Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and they married in April 1939 after her divorce from Huntington become final.[6] That same year, Huntington had a son, Edward Colt (1939–1967), with Mary Chastein Grundhoefer.

In 1940, Huntington invested $100,000 to help start a newspaper, PM, with Marshall Field III and worked as a reporter for the publication. An avid sailor, he donated his yacht to the Coast Guard at the start of World War II and commanded a supply ship in the Pacific. After the war, he moved to Los Angeles and attempted to purchase Republic Pictures and RKO Studios from Howard Hughes. Huntington also started a modeling agency, an artists' colony, and opened a theater.[6]

Huntington's second wife was Marjorie Steele (1930–), an aspiring actress whom Huntington married in 1949. The couple had two children, Catherine Hartford (1950–1988) and John Hartford (1958–2011).

The family commuted between Hartford's numerous homes. He purchased a penthouse duplex on the 13th and 14th floors of One Beekman Place in the 1950s after moving from an apartment at the River House in New York City. He owned a home called "Pompano" on 240 El Vedado Drive in Palm Beach, a 150-acre (0.61 km2) estate in Wyckoff, New Jersey called "Melody Farm", a 160-acre (0.65 km2) Hollywood estate known as "The Pines" also known as Runyon Canyon Park, a townhouse in London, a home in Juan-les-Pins France and a house on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.[8]

Hartford owned Huntington Hartford Productions which produced several films including the Abbott and Costello film, Africa Screams, in 1949. In 1950, Hartford produced Hello Out There, the last film of James Whale, the acclaimed director of the 1931 version of Frankenstein. Huntington produced several films starring Marjorie Steele and encouraged her to become an artist. The couple divorced in 1960.[6]

In 1955, Hartford founded the Oil Shale Corporation, later known as Tosco, and was its majority shareholder and chairman. Tosco was later acquired by ConocoPhillips. He also set up the Denver Research Institute at the University of Denver to find alternate methods of oil extraction.

During this period, he also wrote and produced "The Master of Thornfield", a stage adaptation of Jane Eyre that ran for two weeks in Cincinnati starring Errol Flynn as Mr. Rochester. This partnership led to Flynn staying in Hartford's pool-house briefly in 1957–58 and is the origin of a legend that "The Pines" was Flynn's estate. Later, Hartford produced the play on Broadway.[6]

In 1964, Hartford offered the Pines as a gift to the city but was turned down by Mayor Sam Yorty. As Lloyd Wright recalled in 1977, "Here was this very wealthy man, and he wanted to give something very stunning to Hollywood. The Chambers of Commerce, the hotel owners and the various businesses were jealous of the park and with the help of the city officials, the city refused to give us permits. Hunt was so angry that he wanted to get out immediately and sold the property to [Jules] Berman who destroyed the mansion and let the place run down."

When his uncle George Ludlum Hartford died in 1957, the trust set up by the elder George Huntington Hartford was liquidated and Huntington inherited his portion of the estate. The Chicago Tribune estimated his wealth in 1969 as half a billion dollars.[9] Mike Wallace introduced him in 1959 when he interviewed him on television as being worth half a billion dollars.[10]

14th-century French cloisters reassembled by Hartford on Paradise Island

In 1959, he bought Hog Island in the Bahamas, renamed it Paradise Island, and developed it over the next three years hoping to turn it into another Monte Carlo. One feature of his Ocean Club was a cloister built from the disassembled stones of a monastery that William Randolph Hearst had stored in a Florida warehouse.[8] The Ocean Club was featured in two James Bond films: "Thunderball," in 1965, and "Casino Royale" in 2006.

In an interview with David Frost on British television, Hartford stated that the flag he created for Paradise Island was in the shape of a "P" and that he wanted to put it on the moon as a symbol of peace for the world.[11] Hartford was responsible for getting the Gambling License for Paradise Island by hiring Sir Stafford Sands, a Bahamian lawyer.

Hartford owned an extensive art collection. In an interview by Edward R. Murrow on his show Person to Person he gave a tour of the collection at his Beekman Place apartment including Rembrandt's "Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo", which sold at Christie's auction house in London on December 8, 2009 for $33 million, a world record for a Rembrandt.[12][13]

To house his extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century art, Hartford built the Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle in Manhattan which opened in 1964. Pointedly, it did not include Abstract Expressionism which Hartford panned in his book, Art or Anarchy. Hartford was a patron of the architect Edward Durell Stone who designed the modernist marble-clad structure often derided as the "lollipop building". Stone had previously designed the Museum of Modern Art for the Rockefeller family. Hartford commissioned Salvador Dalí to paint The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus for the museum's opening. The museum also included Hartford's paintings by Monet, Manet, Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Hartford closed the museum after five years. Later the building housed the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and was recently rebuilt with a new facade to house the Museum of Arts and Design. In 1969, Hartford produced the Broadway show "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?" which opened at the Belasco Theater starring the then-unknown actor Al Pacino. Pacino won a Tony for his performance.[14] He himself was portrayed by John McMartin in the 2004 film Kinsey, directed by Bill Condon.

In October 1962, Hartford married Diane Brown at "Melody Farm" in Wyckoff, New Jersey. They had a daughter, Cynara Juliet, before divorcing in 1970. Five years later, he married Elaine Kay but was divorced again in 1981. Hartford's assets were in the billions when he passed away. At the end of his life, Hartford lived in Lyford Cay in the Bahamas with his daughter Juliet.[6]

Patronage of the arts[edit]

Huntington Hartford funded the Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle

Huntington was a strong patron of the arts, building an artists colony above Los Angeles and later a gallery in New York City, and his opinions the arts were equally strong. He criticized Abstract Expressionists, believing they had ushered in a great "ice age of art," freezing out the grand traditions of music, painting and sculpture; he described Pablo Picasso as a "mountebank".[15] Beyond expressionism, he derided the "beatnik, the Existentialist, the juvenile delinquent, the zaniest of abstract art, the weirdest aberrations of the mentally unbalanced, the do-nothing philosophy of Zen Buddhism" as a result of wanton "abuse of liberty and freedom."[15] He had strong opinions against the work of Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot, and Willem de Kooning, as well as art dealer Sidney Janis.[15]

To support the art that he enjoyed, Huntington built an artists' colony in Rustic Canyon, above the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. Buying more than 150 acres in 1948, he hired Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) to adapt existing structures and design new ones. When it opened in 1951, it had more than a dozen cottages and a central dining room for distinguished artists, composers and craftspeople who won scholarships for one to six-month retreats.[15] For nearly 15 years, more than 400 colony artists generated international success with exhibitions, concerts, theater performances and Pulitzer Prizes; included among them were composers Ernst Toch and Ruth Shaw Wylie, writer and activist Max Eastman, and painter Edward Hopper.[15]

Huntington's taste for Los Angeles began to wane, however, after the Los Angeles County Museum of Art rejected an exhibition he proposed. He decided to built his own museum in New York City, the 1964 Gallery of Modern Art on New York's Columbus Circle, declaring that building a museum in Los Angeles was like putting up "a theater in Oklahoma" due to a lack of audience.[15] With the financial commitment to a new museum in New York and tiring of his art colony, he asked local government officials and wealthy patrons to contribute to the colony's support. Lacking what he felt would be sufficient commitment, he shut down the colony in 1965.[15]


His grandfather George Huntington Hartford and his uncles John Augustine Hartford (1872–1951) and George Ludlum Hartford (1864–1957) privately owned the A&P Supermarket, which at one point had 16,000 stores in the U.S. and was the largest retail empire in the world.[16] In the 1950s A&P was the world's largest grocer and, next to General Motors, it sold more goods than any other company in the world. Time magazine reported that A&P had sales of $2.7 billion in 1950. The Time magazine published on November 13, 1950 had both John Augustine Hartford and George Ludlum Hartford on its front cover. Time said that "the familiar red-front A & P store is the real melting pot of the community, patronized by the boss's wife and the baker's daughter, the priest and the policeman. To foreigners A & P's vast supermarkets are among the wonders of the age; to the U.S. middle class, they are one of the direct roads to solvency. 'Going to the A & P' is almost an American tribal rite.'"[17] In 2007, A&P had revenue of 6.9 Billion. A&P is considered an American icon.[18] The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial on December 10, 2010, said that "A&P was as well known as McDonalds or Google is today" and that A&P was "Walmart before Walmart."[19] "To immortalize outstanding American merchants", Joseph Kennedy in 1953 commissioned a bronze bust of George Huntington Hartford, four times life size along with 7 other men, which would come to be known as the Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame in Chicago.[20]


  1. ^ Altman, Alex (May 22, 2008). "Milestones". Time Magazine. 
  2. ^ Bernstein, Adam (May 20, 2008). "Huntington Hartford lost millions on investments". Washington Post. 
  3. ^ "The Rich: The Benefactor". Time. March 1962. 
  4. ^ "HARTFORD PLANNING OIL SHALE LAWSUIT". The New York Times. July 20, 1968. 
  5. ^ Marc Levinson (2011), The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, Hill and Wang. ISBN 978-0-8090-9543-8, p. 88
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lewis, Daniel (May 20, 2008). "Huntington Hartford, A&P Heir, Dies at 97". New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Mrs. Astor and the Gilded Age". May 23, 2008. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "The Benefactor". Time Magazine. March 2, 1962. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Huntingon Hartford Is Really One of the Good Guys". The New York Times. March 9, 1969. Retrieved January 1, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Mike Wallace interviews A&P Supermarket Heir Huntington Hartford". ABC. May 12, 1959. Retrieved December 27, 2011. 
  11. ^ "The David Frost Show". IMDB. 
  12. ^ "Rembrandt auction sets £20 million world record". Mail Online (London: Associated Newspapers Ltd). December 9, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2010. 
  13. ^ Kennedy, Maeve (September 18, 2009). "Rembrandt for sale". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Al Pacino biography". IMDB. Retrieved January 4, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Sam Watters, Colony in Pacific Palisades nurtured top artists in 1950s, 1960s, Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2009, accessed August 19, 2013.
  16. ^ Marc Levinson (2011), The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America. Hill and Wang. ISBN 978-0-8090-9543-8.
  17. ^ "Time Magazine Cover showing Hartford's uncles". Time Magazine. November 13, 1950. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Everything You Need to Know About the A&P Bankruptcy". December 13, 2010. Retrieved December 14, 2010. 
  19. ^ Kansas, Dave (December 10, 2010). "A&P Heading to the Checkout Counter". Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  20. ^ "$25,000 Grant to LaneTech From The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation". Triblocal. November 16, 2010. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 

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