Atalaya Castle is a broken down beauty. The former winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington may not look like a castle in the traditional sense, but it’s an excellent reminder of what was considered a castle to individual people in different times. It’s shaped like a fortress, really.
The bricks are whitewashed like the ocean waves crashing on the sand just outside. There’s a beach walk-up and a room dedicated to the ocean view and its sunny disposition. There’s old world plumbing and simple, elegant architecture. It’s all very romantic, like you’ve found a lost piece of history in shambles and you’re the only person who gets to experience its charm, beachgoers and tourists be damned.
There’s something about wandering sun-warmed brick halls scattered with the sand from between bars, open windows welcoming the breeze, that makes the day seem older, nostalgic.
But, of course, it isn’t. Atalaya is still a museum with its labeled rooms and backstories and breakfast nooks. Its history is rich. The understanding of someone’s life gleamed from brick and mortar, from room selection to desirable views, to the housing they chose for their help, was most alive at Atalaya. From the oyster shucking house to the pens for wild animals (bears, wolves, big cats) that Anna used as models for her art, I got a sense of how the couple lived and who they were, professionally and otherwise. There was love and art and poetry and travel and respect and eccentricity in that winter home. It wasn’t a structured version of family and generations like plantation homes or European castles. It didn’t care for societal expectations or places to house guests. It was built for passions, for writing poems and making sculptures, for caring for one another. Atalaya was real.
– M. Ray Hall