HUNTRIDGE ON MARYLAND

A​ ​VACANT​ ​THEATER​ ​BEARS SILENT​ ​ TRIBUTE​ ​ TO​ ​ THE​ ​ TRUE​ FOUNDERS​ ​OFTHE​ ​ LAS​ ​ VEGAS​ ​ STRIP

On​ ​the​ ​busy​ ​corner​ ​of​ ​Charleston​ ​Boulevard​ ​and​ ​Maryland​ ​Parkway​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​stands​ ​the streamline​ ​moderne,​ ​1940’s​ ​architecture​ ​of​ ​the​ ​abandoned​ ​Huntridge​ ​Theater.​  ​Despite​ ​its​ ​listing with​ ​the​ ​National​ ​Trust​ ​for​ ​Historic​ ​Preservation,​ ​it​ ​has​ ​long​ ​been​ ​the​ ​subject​ ​of​ ​controversy, tempest​ ​tossed​ ​in​ ​disputes​ ​over​ ​its​ ​preservation​ ​since​ ​its​ ​2002​ ​closure.

Huntridge​ ​is​ ​among​ ​the​ ​largest​ ​of​ ​theaters​ ​designed​ ​by​ ​S.​ ​Charles​ ​Lee,​ ​perhaps​ ​the​ ​most​ ​prolific of​ ​Hollywood’s​ ​celebrity​ ​architects​ ​of​ ​the​ ​golden​ ​age​ ​of​ ​cinema.​  ​Long-time​ ​Las​ ​Vegans​ ​are often​ ​sentimental​ ​about​ ​it:​ ​The​ ​hipsters​ ​who​ ​enjoyed​ ​her​ ​as​ ​a​ ​concert​ ​venue​ ​in​ ​the​ ​1990’s;​ ​the Generation​ ​X​ ​and​ ​baby​ ​boomers​ ​who​ ​relate​ ​first​ ​movies,​ ​first​ ​dates.​ ​An​ ​occasional​ ​recollection of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​racially​ ​integrated​ ​theater​ ​in​ ​town,​ ​ownership​ ​by​ ​movie​ ​stars,​ ​early​ ​visits​ ​by celebrities,​ ​and​ ​premiers.​ ​Few​ ​recall​ ​years​ ​prior​ ​to​ ​the​ ​1950’s.​ ​None​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​know​ ​its​ ​genesis.

Huntridge​ ​Theater​ ​is​ ​most​ ​often​ ​recognized​ ​by​ ​its​ ​75-foot​ ​concrete​ ​sign,​ ​the​ ​tallest​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas upon​ ​its​ ​1944​ ​completion.​  ​Considering​ ​the​ ​City’s​ ​population​ ​was​ ​only​ ​about​ ​25,000​ ​at​ ​that​ ​time of​ ​the​ ​crescendo​ ​of​ ​World​ ​War​ ​II,​ ​the​ ​950-seat​ ​auditorium​ ​and​ ​trendy​ ​architecture​ ​are​ ​of​ ​baffling scale.​  ​Add​ ​to​ ​this​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​apparent​ ​feasibility​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​planning​ ​and​ ​construction​ ​took​ ​place during​ ​the​ ​Office​ ​of​ ​Price​ ​Administration,​ ​the​ ​stringent​ ​World​ ​War​ ​II-era​ ​rationing​ ​of​ ​building materials​ ​and​ ​labor. ​At​ ​the​ ​time​ ​of​ ​completion,​ ​trash​ ​filled​ ​the​ ​streets​ ​of​ ​Paris,​ ​then​ ​rotting​ ​under Nazi​ ​occupation​ ​for​ ​four​ ​years.​ ​Anne​ ​Frank​ ​and​ ​her​ ​family​ ​had​ ​just​ ​been​ ​captured.​ ​Humphrey Bogart​ ​had​ ​just​ ​starred​ Casablanca.​​ ​The​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​Strip​ ​and​ ​the​ ​major​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​residential thoroughfare​ ​of​ ​Maryland​ ​Parkway​ ​did​ ​not​ ​yet​ ​exist.

What​ ​brought​ ​about​ ​this​ ​seemingly​ ​impossible​ ​construction​ ​project​ ​at​ ​such​ ​an​ ​improbable​ ​time? What​ ​drove​ ​those​ ​who​ ​created​ ​it,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​the​ ​Huntridge​ ​neighborhood,​ ​the​ ​first​ ​master​ ​planned community​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas,​ ​with​ ​its​ ​residential​ ​neighborhood​ ​stretching​ ​for​ ​blocks​ ​to​ ​the​ ​south​ ​of the​ ​theater?​ ​To​ ​find​ ​the​ ​catalyst​ ​we​ ​must​ ​go​ ​back.​ ​To​ ​unveil​ ​his​ ​motivations,​ ​back​ ​further​ ​still.

Hollywood​ ​movies​ ​often​ ​depict​ ​the​ ​genesis​ ​of​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​as​ ​a​ ​grand​ ​vision​ ​of​  ​Ben​ ​“Bugsy” Siegel,​ ​or​ ​other​ ​characters​ ​of​ ​mafia​ ​folklore.​  ​But​ ​the​ ​truth​ ​is​ ​that​ ​Huntridge,​ ​and​ ​indeed​ ​much​ ​of modern​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​sprang​ ​from​ ​the​ ​vision​ ​of​ ​a​ ​powerful​ ​figure​ ​so​ ​global​ ​in​ ​action,​ ​selfless​ ​in promotion​ ​and​ ​diverse​ ​in​ ​alliance​ ​that​ ​only​ ​fragments​ ​of​ ​his​ ​work​ ​appear​ ​in​ ​the​ ​history​ ​books:

Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt.​ ​Hunt​ ​was​ ​at​ ​the​ ​center​ ​of​ ​a​ ​group​ ​of​ ​American​ ​and​ ​European​ ​capitalists​ ​who​ ​in many​ ​ways​ ​defined​ ​global​ ​banking​ ​and​ ​industry​ ​from​ ​the​ ​late​ ​1880’s​ ​to​ ​at​ ​least​ ​the​ ​1940’s.​ ​He was​ ​a​ ​college​ ​president​ ​in​ ​Iowa,​ ​owned​ ​newspapers,​ ​mines​ ​-​ ​even​ ​started​ ​a​ ​town​ ​-​ ​in​ ​the

Washington​ ​territory​ ​before​ ​it​ ​became​ ​a​ ​state.​ ​He​ ​had​ ​created​ ​massive​ ​industrial​ ​mines​ ​in​ ​today’s North​ ​Korea,​ ​giant​ ​industrial​ ​farming​ ​operations​ ​on​ ​the​ ​upper​ ​Nile​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Sudan,​ ​sugar​ ​and cotton​ ​plantations​ ​in​ ​Mexico,​ ​industrial​ ​wheat​ ​farming​ ​in​ ​Alberta.​ ​When​ ​he​ ​settled​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas in​ ​1923,​ ​Hunt​ ​was​ ​intent​ ​on​ ​exploiting​ ​the​ ​power​ ​and​ ​water​ ​anticipated​ ​with​ ​the​ ​promise​ ​of Hoover​ ​Dam,​ ​still​ ​10​ ​years​ ​off. Photo​ ​and​ ​headline​ ​from​ ​The​ ​Nevadan​ ​Feb​ ​13,​ 1972​ ,  courtesy​ ​Nevada​ ​State​ ​Museum​ ​Archives

Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt​ ​was​ ​first​ ​to​ ​promote​ ​the​ ​tiny​ ​railroad​ ​town​ ​of​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​as​ ​being​ ​the​ ​coming resort​ ​center​ ​of​ ​the​ ​world4,​ ​and​ ​in​ ​1925​ ​his​ ​global​ ​group​ ​of​ ​moneyed​ ​followers​ ​joined​ ​in.​ ​Among

the​ ​original​ ​investors​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​Strip​ ​and​ ​Huntridge​ ​were​ ​Teddy​ ​Roosevelt’s​ ​commander of​ ​the​ ​Pacific​ ​Fleet,​ ​Admiral​ ​Willard​ ​Brownson;​ ​the​ ​former​ ​Adjutant​ ​General​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Sudan,

General​ ​Sir​ ​J.​ ​J.​ ​Asser;​ ​the​ ​inventor​ ​of​ ​modern​ ​gypsum​ ​drywall,​ ​Joseph​ ​F.​ ​Haggerty;​ ​the​ ​former Director​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Federal​ ​Reserve​ ​Bank​ ​of​ ​Chicago,​ ​Walter​ ​McLallen;​ ​the​ ​son​ ​of​ ​the​ ​developer​ ​of the​ ​modern​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Stock​ ​Exchange,​ ​Frederic​ ​Bull;​ ​a​ ​financial​ ​advisor​ ​to​ ​Wm.​ ​Randolph

Hearst​ ​and​ ​early​ ​travel​ ​film​ ​producer,​ ​Leland​ ​J.​ ​Burrud;​ ​the​ ​namesake​ ​of​ ​Clark​ ​County,​ ​Nevada, Senator​ ​William​ ​F.​ ​Clark;​ ​the​ ​Scottish​ ​Barons​ ​Moncreiff;​ ​the​ ​principal​ ​architect​ ​of​ ​British​ ​Hong Kong,​ ​James​ ​Orange;​ ​and​ ​most​ ​substantial​ ​among​ ​them​ ​all,​ ​the​ ​American​ ​banker​ ​to​ ​Czar Nicholas​ ​II,​ ​Hunt’s​ ​closest​ ​friend,​ ​Harry​ ​Fessenden​ ​Meserve.

By​ ​1933,​ ​over​ ​4,000​ ​acres,​ ​an​ ​area​ ​much​ ​greater​ ​than​ ​all​ ​of​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​at​ ​the​ ​time,​ ​had been​ ​purchased​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Hunt​ ​consortium.​  ​It​ ​was​ ​in​ ​fact​ ​these​ ​global​ ​capitalists,​ ​behind​ ​the​ ​scenes men,​ ​with​ ​vast​ ​funds​ ​and​ ​disdain​ ​for​ ​the​ ​public​ ​eye,​ ​who​ ​cast​ ​the​ ​dye​ ​that​ ​produced​ ​the​ ​Las Vegas​ ​Strip.​ ​Theirs​ ​is​ ​also​ ​the​ ​DNA​ ​of​ ​Huntridge,​ ​where​ ​their​ ​roots​ ​run​ ​deeper​ ​still.​  ​The​ ​story begins​ ​a​ ​few​ ​generations​ ​earlier.

During​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Civil​ ​War,​ ​the​ ​French​ ​Envoy​ ​to​ ​the​ ​United​ ​States​ ​backed​ ​the​ ​Confederacy, spelling​ ​trouble​ ​for​ ​Lincoln.​ ​The​ ​influence​ ​of​ ​Paris​ ​on​ ​Southerners​ ​from​ ​Louisiana,​ ​the​ ​state purchased​ ​from​ ​France​ ​a​ ​generation​ ​earlier,​ ​was​ ​considerable.​ ​But​ ​into​ ​the​ ​vacuum​ ​created​ ​by the​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​support​ ​from​ ​the​ ​French​ ​envoy,​ ​another​ ​French​ ​aristocrat​ ​threw​ ​his​ ​hat.​  ​He​ ​was​ ​a supporter​ ​of​ ​the​ ​North,​ ​joining​ ​Lincoln’s​ ​cabinet,​ ​balancing​ ​the​ ​scales.

Pictured​ ​just​ ​to​ ​the​ ​right​ ​of​ ​President​ ​Lincoln​ ​in​ ​the​ ​photo​ ​of​ ​his​ ​second​ ​inauguration,​ ​is​ ​that French​ ​adviser.​ ​He​ ​sailed​ ​with​ ​Lincoln​ ​to​ ​negotiations​ ​ending​ ​the​ ​war​ ​and​ ​was​ ​present​ ​at​ ​the surrender​ ​at​ ​Appomattox.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​in​ ​the​ ​upper​ ​window​ ​next​ ​to​ ​Lincoln​ ​during​ ​the​ ​President’s final​ ​speech​ ​from​ ​the​ ​White​ ​House,​ ​and​ ​declined​ ​the​ ​President’s​ ​invitation​ ​to​ ​Ford’s​ ​Theater​ ​on that​ ​fateful​ ​Good​ ​Friday​ ​six​ ​weeks​ ​later.​  ​He​ ​was​ ​the​ ​Marquis​ ​Charles​ ​Adolphe​ ​de​ ​Chambrun.

Chambrun​ ​endeavored​ ​to​ ​bridge​ ​the​ ​divide​ ​with​ ​France​ ​for​ ​Lincoln,​ ​joining​ ​the​ ​President​ ​in​ ​what was​ ​initially​ ​an​ ​unofficial,​ ​unpaid​ ​capacity.​ ​In​ ​so​ ​doing,​ ​Chambrun​ ​followed​ ​the​ ​steps​ ​of​ ​a famous​ ​ancestor​ ​of​ ​his​ ​wife,​ ​and​ ​adhered​ ​to​ ​the​ ​directive​ ​both​ ​men​ ​followed:​ “Omnia​ ​reliquit servare​ ​rempublicam”​ ​(“He​ ​left​ ​everything​ ​to​ ​save​ ​the​ ​Republic”),​ ​the​ ​motto​ ​of​ ​an​ ​organization that​ ​today​ ​is​ ​little​ ​known,​ ​the​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cincinnati .​  Chambrun’s​ ​inspiration​ ​was​ ​his​ ​wife’s grandfather,​ ​a​ ​French​ ​hero​ ​of​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Revolutionary​ ​War​ ​who​ ​was​  ​President

Washington’s​ ​dear​ ​friend,​ ​an​ ​earlier​ ​French​ ​aristocrat​ ​volunteer,​ ​the​ ​Marquis​ ​de​ ​Lafayette.

Formed​ ​in​ ​1783​ ​by​ ​officers​ ​in​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Revolutionary​ ​War​ ​including​ ​Lafayette, membership​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cincinnati​ ​is​ ​passed​ ​on​ ​to​ ​this​ ​day​ ​only​ ​to​ ​their​ ​heirs.​ ​The​ ​name comes​ ​from​ ​Lucius​ ​Quinctius​ ​Cincinnatus,​ ​a​ ​Consul​ ​of​ ​Rome​ ​who,​ ​on​ ​more​ ​than​ ​one​ ​occasion, was​ ​called​ ​upon​ ​in​ ​emergency​ ​to​ ​be​ ​dictator​ ​of​ ​Rome​ ​when​ ​an​ ​invasion​ ​loomed,​ ​then unexpectedly​ ​resigned​ ​the​ ​position​ ​as​ ​soon​ ​as​ ​the​ ​emergency​ ​was​ ​over​ ​and​ ​battle​ ​won, relinquishing​ ​absolute​ ​power​ ​and​ ​wealth.​ ​Cincinnatus​ ​is​​a​ ​long-revered​ ​example​ ​of​ ​the​ ​citizen officer​ ​who​ ​serves​ ​when​ ​duty​ ​calls,​ ​returning​ ​power​ ​to​ ​the​ ​people​ ​when​ ​his​ ​service​ ​is​ ​no​ ​longer needed.​ ​The​ ​City​ ​of​ ​Cincinnati,​ ​named​ ​by​ ​a​ ​member,​ ​takes​ ​its​ ​name​ ​from​ ​this​ ​Society.​ ​As​ ​his wife​ ​was​ ​a​ ​direct​ ​descendent​ ​of​ ​Lafayette,​ ​the​ ​Marquis​ ​de​ ​Chambrun​ ​was​ ​a​ ​renowned​ ​friend​ ​of the​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cincinnati.​  ​His​ ​heirs​ ​would​ ​be​ ​members ​One​ ​such​ ​heir​ ​was​ ​his​ ​middle​ ​of three​ ​sons,​ ​Count​ ​Aldebert​ ​de​ ​Chambrun.

In​ ​May​ ​of​ ​1940,​ ​Count​ ​Aldebert​ ​was​ ​waiting​ ​for​ ​his​ ​wife,​ ​Countess​ ​Clara​ ​Longworth​ ​de Chambrun,​ ​an​ ​American​ ​from​ ​Cincinnati​ ​and​ ​cousin​ ​of​ ​President​ ​Franklin​ ​Roosevelt,​ ​to​ ​arrive​ ​at the​ ​Count’s​ ​Paris​ ​office​ ​at​ ​National​ ​City​ ​Bank.​  ​The​ ​Countess​ ​hurried​ ​along​ ​the​ ​Champs​ ​Elysee as​ ​the​ ​Nazis​ ​destroyed​ ​everything​ ​in​ ​their​ ​path,​ ​roaring​ ​into​ ​the​ ​City​ ​of​ ​Light. ​Millions​ ​of Belgian​ ​refugees​ ​joined​ ​the​ ​French,​ ​fleeing​ ​southward​ ​in​ ​a​ ​massive​ ​traffic​ ​jam​ ​by​ ​foot,​ ​horse, bicycle,​ ​car;​ ​a​ ​river​ ​of​ ​humanity​ ​frantically​ ​escaping​ ​the​ ​Nazi​ ​blitzkrieg.

Count​ ​Aldebert​ ​was​ ​of​ ​particular​ ​interest​ ​to​ ​the​ ​invading​ ​force.​ ​A​ ​celebrated​ ​General​ ​of​ ​World War​ ​I,​ ​the​ ​aging​ ​aristocrat​ ​held​ ​dual​ ​US​ ​and​ ​French​ ​citizenship,​ ​as​ ​do​ ​all​ ​descendants​ ​of Lafayette.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​a​ ​director​ ​of​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Hospital​ ​of​ ​Paris,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​the​ ​Paris​ ​branch​ ​of National​ ​City​ ​Bank​ ​of​ ​New​ ​York.​ ​His​ ​thespian​ ​wife,​ ​a​ ​Cincinnati​ ​native,​ ​ran​ ​the​ ​American Library​ ​in​ ​Paris.​ ​Bank​ ​Intelligence​ ​identified​ ​the​ ​Count​ ​and​ ​Countess​ ​as​ ​targets​ ​for​ ​kidnapping by​ ​the​ ​Germans.​ ​Management​ ​ordered​ ​them​ ​out​ ​of​ ​Paris,​​as​​the​ ​cannons​ ​thundered​ ​close.​ ​The Countess​ ​arrived​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Bank,​ ​but​ ​the​ ​driver​ ​assigned​ ​to​ ​transport​ ​and​ ​assist​ ​the​ ​senior​ ​couple​ ​had disappeared.

Years​ ​later,​ ​the​ ​Countess​ ​recalled​ ​at​ ​this​ ​moment​ ​the​ ​sudden​ ​appearance​ ​of​ ​a​ ​53-year​ ​old​ ​bank trust​ ​officer​ ​who​ ​volunteered​ ​to​ ​take​ ​the​ ​place​ ​of​ ​the​ ​missing​ ​driver.​ ​Accommodations​ ​in Southern​ ​France,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​all-but-abandoned​ ​Château​ ​de​ ​Lavoûte-Polignac,​ ​a​ ​massive​ ​historic castle​ ​of​ ​the​ ​family​ ​of​ ​Prince​ ​Pierre​ ​of​ ​Monaco,​ ​had​ ​been​ ​arranged.​ ​But​ ​the​ ​safety​ ​of​ ​the​ ​castle was​ ​two​ ​days​ ​drive,​ ​overrun​ ​by​ ​refugees​ ​and​ ​devoid​ ​of​ ​fuel​ ​or​ ​provisions.

The​ ​Countess​ ​recalled​ ​the​ ​driver’s​ ​skill​ ​and​ ​vigilance​ ​as​ ​he​ ​watched​ ​over​ ​them​ ​en​ ​route​ ​south. Her​ ​memoir​ ​indicates​ ​little​ ​knowledge​ ​of​ ​this​ ​driver.​ ​But​ ​the​ ​man’s​ ​history​ ​would​ ​indicate​ ​that her​ ​husband​ ​surely​ ​knew​ ​more.

Initial​ ​foreign​ ​branches​ ​of​ ​the​ ​American​ ​bank​ ​from​ ​which​ ​the​ ​group​ ​departed​ ​in​ ​Paris​ ​had​ ​been opened​ ​in​ ​1915​ ​by​ ​National​ ​City​ ​Bank​ ​of​ ​New​ ​York’s​ ​unprecedented​ ​international​ ​expansion operation.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​then​ ​that​ ​its​ ​Vice​ ​President​ ​of​ ​foreign​ ​banking,​ ​Harry​ ​Fessenden​ ​Meserve,​ ​saw the​ ​first​ ​opening​ ​by​ ​any​ ​American​ ​bank​ ​of​ ​a​ ​branch​ ​on​ ​foreign​ ​soil,​ ​as​ ​National​ ​City​ ​opened​ ​in

Rio​ ​de​ ​Janeiro,​ ​Brazil.​ ​Meserve​ ​had​ ​a​ ​trusted​ ​emissary​ ​in​ ​Rio​ ​Named​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt,​ ​a second-generation​ ​globe-trotting​ ​entrepreneur​ ​with​ ​deep​​connections​ ​around​ ​the​ ​world.​  ​Henry,

the​ ​son​ ​of​ ​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt,​ ​had​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​Rio​ ​for​ ​four​ ​years​ ​as​ ​company​ ​treasurer​ ​to​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the Bank’s​ ​largest​ ​clients.​  ​But​ ​Meserve​ ​had​ ​known​ ​the​ ​29-year-old​ ​Hunt​ ​since​ ​childhood.

Meserve,​ ​who​ ​descended​ ​from​ ​a​ ​Lieutenant​ ​aboard​ ​the​ ​privateer​ Satisfaction​​ ​during​ ​the

American​ ​Revolution,​ ​had​ ​graduated​ ​from​ ​Harvard​ ​in​ ​1888​ ​before​ ​heading​ ​west​ ​to​ ​the​ ​wilds​ ​of Seattle,​ ​“patiently​ ​waiting​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Country​ ​to​ ​grow”.​  ​There​ ​he​ ​became​ ​bank​ ​manager,​ ​friend and​ ​confidant​ ​of​ ​the​ ​charismatic​ ​young​ ​owner​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Seattle​ ​Post​ ​Intelligencer,​ ​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt. Unwilling​ ​to​ ​wait​ ​for​ ​organic​ ​growth,​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​had​ ​founded​ ​a​ ​bank,​ ​railroads,​ ​the​ ​town​ ​of Kirkland​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Monte​ ​Christo​ ​Mine,​ ​within​ ​a​ ​few​ ​years​ ​of​ ​arriving​ ​in​ ​Seattle​ ​from​ ​Iowa.​  ​He was​ ​Seattle’s​ ​wealthiest​ ​citizen.

Then,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​panic​ ​of​ ​1893,​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​suffered​ ​the​ ​loss​ ​of​ ​all​ ​equity​ ​and​ ​business​ ​operations. Bankrupt​ ​but​ ​unsinkable,​ ​he​ ​set​ ​sail​ ​to​ ​establish​ ​mining​ ​operations​ ​in​ ​what​ ​is​ ​now​ ​North​ ​Korea, where​ ​he​ ​partnered​ ​with,​ ​among​ ​others,​ ​the​ ​Emperor​ ​of​ ​Korea​ ​himself.​ ​Hunt​ ​soon​ ​sent​ ​for Meserve​ ​to​ ​manage​ ​his​ ​massive​ ​Unsan​ ​Gold​ ​Mines​ ​near​ ​the​ ​Manchurian​ ​border,​ ​which​ ​Meserve did​ ​until​ ​1908.​  ​In​ ​1902​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​sold​ ​the​ ​majority​ ​of​ ​his​ ​stake​ ​and​ ​the​ ​two​ ​men​ ​went​ ​down​ ​in Seattle​ ​history​ ​when​ ​they​ ​surprised​ ​old​ ​Seattle​ ​investors​ ​with​ ​repayment​ ​in​ ​full.

Meserve​ ​invested​ ​with​ ​his​ ​friend​ ​again​ ​in​ ​about​ ​1900,​ ​when ​​Hunt​ ​took​ ​control​ ​of​ ​five​ ​million acres​ ​of​ ​the​ ​shores​ ​of​ ​the​ ​upper​ ​Nile​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Sudan,​ ​over​ ​a​ ​decade​ ​ahead​ ​of​ ​even​ ​T.E.​ ​Lawrence. There,​ ​Hunt​ ​and​ ​renowned​ ​partners,​ ​advised​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Vilmorin​ ​seed​ ​company​ ​of​ ​Paris, farmed hundreds​ ​of​ ​thousands​ ​of​ ​acres​ ​of​ ​their​ ​new​ ​creation,​ ​Egyptian​ ​Long​ ​Staple​ ​Cotton.​  ​That​ ​fortune lead​ ​to​ ​another​ ​project​ ​by​ ​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​American​ ​desert​ ​southwest.

In​ ​1925​ ​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt’s​ ​son,​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​arrived​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas,​ ​new​ ​French​ ​wife​ ​in​ ​tow. The​ ​couple​ ​had​ ​stopped​ ​in​ ​Paris​ ​to​ ​wed,​ ​immediately​ ​upon​ ​their​ ​return​ ​from​ ​two​ ​years​ ​in​ ​Brazil.

Henry​ ​had​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​Brazil​ ​since​ ​1911,​ ​but​ ​left​ ​in​ ​1917​ ​to​ ​serve​ ​in​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Army​ ​during World​ ​War​ ​I.​ ​Decorated​ ​by​ ​France​ ​for​ ​bravery​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Battle​ ​of​ ​Belleau​ ​Wood,​ ​experienced​ ​in international​ ​business​ ​and​ ​finance,​ ​Henry​ ​joined​ ​his​ ​father​ ​there​ ​with​ ​intentions​ ​of​ ​developing their​ ​massive​ ​land​ ​portfolio.​  ​But​ ​Great​ ​Depression​ ​would​ ​devour​ ​the​ ​family’s​ ​liquidity,​ ​leading to​ ​a​ ​financial​ ​rescue​ ​by​ ​the​ ​cash​ ​of​ ​his​ ​father’s​ ​old​ ​friend​ ​and​ ​partner,​ ​Meserve.​ ​Captain​ ​Henry Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​returned​ ​with​ ​his​ ​wife​ ​and​ ​three​ ​daughters​ ​to​ ​Paris​ ​in​ ​1931​ ​when​ ​Meserve​ ​hired​ ​him to​ ​run​ ​the​ ​trust​ ​department​ ​at​ ​Paris​ ​branch​ ​of​ ​National​ ​City​ ​Bank​ ​of​ ​New​ ​York.

Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt,​ ​April​ ​1925​  ​|​  ​Alexandra​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​collection

A​ ​Francophile​ ​since​ ​youth,​ ​having​ ​married​ ​into​ ​the​ ​renowned​ ​French​ ​botany​ ​family​ ​which advised​ ​his​ ​father​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Sudan,​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​lived​ ​well​ ​on​ ​his​ ​return​ ​to​ ​Paris.​  ​As​ ​his bank​ ​position​ ​took​ ​on​ ​escalating​ ​importance,​ ​his​ ​father​ ​died​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​in​ ​1933.​ ​Henry’s wife,​ ​Louise​ ​de​ ​Vilmorin,​ ​had​ ​become​ ​an​ ​author​ ​whose​ ​work​ ​would​ ​weave​ ​its​ ​way​ ​into​ ​the​ ​very

​ ​Nin,​ ​Anaïs​ ​(1934-1937)​ ​Fire,​ ​from​ ​A​ ​Journal​ of​ ​ ​Love,​  The​ ​​Unexpurgated​ ​Diary​ ​of​ ​Anaïs​ ​Nin.​ New​​ York,​ San​ ​Diego,​ ​London.​ ​Harcourt​ ​Brace​ ​Company​ ​reads:​ ​“Last​ ​night ​ ​was ​ a​ ​ frivolous​ ​ night​ ​ ​with ​ Bill​​  Hoffman,​ the​ ​Barclay​ ​Hudsons, ​ Henri​ ​ Hunt,​ ​ and​ ​ Hugh.​ ​ ​Bright ​ ​lights, ​ savory​ ​ ​dinner ​ at​ ​ Maxim’s,​ ​ Cabaret​ ​ aux​

fabric​ ​of​ ​French​ ​culture.​ ​Though​ ​the​ ​two​ ​divorced​ ​in​ ​1934,​​he​ ​remained​ ​close​ ​to​ ​her​ ​family​ ​and their​ ​circle​ ​of​ ​friends​ ​remained​ ​intact.​ ​Harry​ ​Fessenden​ ​Meserve,​ ​by​ ​then​ ​retired​ ​but​ ​still​ ​much involved​ ​and​ ​traveling​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Bank,​ ​returned​ ​to​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​in​ ​1935.​ ​There​ ​he​ ​worked​ ​with​ ​the Hunts’​ ​stalwart​ ​local​ ​company​ ​secretary,​ ​and​ ​long​ ​distance​ ​with​ ​Henry,​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​the​ ​Hunt syndicate​ ​holdings.

World​ ​War​ ​II​ ​brewed​ ​in​ ​late-1930’s​ ​Paris,​ ​and​ ​Meserve​ ​and​ ​the​ ​other​ ​bank​ ​directors​ ​were​ ​no strangers​ ​to​ ​the​ ​dynamics.​ ​Henry​ ​Hunt,​ ​mysteriously​ ​holding​ ​a​ ​passport​ ​allowing​ ​expanded travel​ ​privileges,​ ​journeyed​ ​repeatedly​ ​back​ ​and​ ​forth​ ​between​ ​Switzerland​ ​and​ ​Paris.​ ​He​ ​met often​ ​with​ ​diplomats,​ ​military​ ​officers,​ ​captains​ ​of​ ​industry,​ ​entertainers​ ​and​ ​others,​ ​debriefing them​ ​for​ ​reports​ ​which​ ​he​ ​surreptitiously​ ​sent​ ​to​ ​his​ ​secretary​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas,​ ​who​ ​typed​ ​and forwarded​ ​them​ ​to​ ​stateside​ ​officers​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Bank.​ ​The​ ​flow​ ​of​ ​information​ ​included​ ​warnings​ ​of attacks​ ​on​ ​Poland,​ ​the​ ​border​ ​massings​ ​of​ ​unreported​ ​German​ ​troops,​ ​Nazi​ ​control​ ​of​ ​airplane engine​ ​manufacturing​ ​in​ ​Romania,​ ​capital​ ​flow,​ ​spies,​ ​informants,​ ​secret​ ​societies​ ​and​ ​more.

The​ ​reports​ ​continued​ ​almost​ ​weekly​ ​until​ ​1940,when​ ​German​ ​tanks​ ​rolled​ ​on​ ​Paris.​ ​That’s​ ​when Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​volunteered​ ​to​ ​replace​ ​the​ ​driver​ ​of​ ​Meserve’s​ ​old​ ​friends,​ ​the​ ​Count​ ​and Countess​ ​Aldebert​ ​de​ ​Chambrun.

Arriving​ ​at​ ​Château​ ​de​ ​Lavoûte-Polignac,​ ​Hunt​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Chambruns​ ​found​ ​it​  ​adorned​ ​with finery,​ ​while​ ​devoid​ ​of​ ​fuel​ ​or​ ​food.​ ​Surrounding​ ​towns​ ​were​ ​overrun,​ ​stores​ ​emptied.​ ​Doubt​ ​and danger​ ​lurked​ ​on​ ​the​ ​roads​ ​as​ ​desperation​ ​set​ ​in.​ ​As​ ​the​ ​stay​ ​stretched​ ​into​ ​weeks,​ ​the​ ​Countess de​ ​Chambrun​ ​remembered​ ​it​ ​as​ ​a​ ​struggle​ ​to​ ​survive​ ​both​ ​hunger​ ​and​ ​depression.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​in​ ​this dark​ ​hour​ ​that​ ​she​ ​learned​ ​of​ ​the​ ​skills​ ​of​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt.

Henry​ ​had​ ​crisscrossed​ ​the​ ​globe​ ​in​ ​an​ ​incredible​ ​lifetime​ ​of​ ​adventure​ ​and​ ​intrigue.​ ​The Countess​ ​reported​ ​in​ ​her​ ​memoires:​ ​“Fortunately​ ​for​ ​us,​ ​our​ ​improvised​ ​chauffeur​ ​turned​ ​out​ ​to be​ ​anything​ ​but​ ​an​ ​amateur​ ​when​ ​it​ ​came​ ​to​ ​camping,​ ​roughing​ ​it,​ ​and​ ​taking​ ​the​ ​most​ ​clever​ ​and tactful​ ​contact​ ​with​ ​the​ ​inhabitants​ ​of​ ​whatever​ ​country​ ​in​ ​which​ ​he​ ​happened​ ​to​ ​be.​ ​We​ ​soon discovered​ ​the​ ​advantages​ ​he​ ​possessed​ ​in​ ​travel​ ​experience.​ ​Having​ ​explored​ ​the​ ​wildest​ ​parts of​ ​India​ ​and​ ​Thibet,​ ​the​ ​Sierras​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Rockies​ ​were​ ​to​ ​him​ ​mere​ ​child’s​ ​play.​ ​When​ ​we​ ​saw how​ ​he​ ​could​ ​make​ ​something​ ​out​ ​of​ ​nothing​ ​at​ ​Lavoûte-sur-Loire,​ ​we​ ​laughingly​ ​bestowed upon​ ​him​ ​the​ ​name​ ​of​ ​‘Daniel​ ​Boone’.”

In​ ​the​ ​Countess’s​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​familiarity​ ​with​ ​Henry,​ ​we​ ​see​ ​his​ ​mysterious​ ​modesty​ ​and​ ​stoicism. She​ ​appears​ ​oblivious​ ​to​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​her​ ​famous​ ​cousin,​ ​former​ ​first​ ​Lady​ ​Edith​ ​Roosevelt,​ ​had written​ ​about​ ​Henry​ ​in​ ​her​ ​own​ ​memoir,​ ​describing​ ​him​ ​heartbroken​ ​at​ ​the​ ​1913​ ​funeral​ ​of​ ​her young​ ​cousin​ ​Margaret​ ​Roosevelt,​ ​with​ ​whom​ ​Henry​ ​had​ ​an​ ​exuberant​ ​romance​ ​while​ ​sailing with​ ​Theodore​ ​Roosevelt​ ​on​ ​that​ ​President’s​ ​famed​ ​trip​ ​to​ ​South​ ​America.​ ​The​ ​Countess​ ​seems to​ ​also​ ​have​ ​been​ ​unaware​ ​that​ ​Henry’s​ ​father​ ​was​ ​adviser​ ​to​ ​President​ ​Theodore​ ​Roosevelt;​ ​that the​ ​Hunts​ ​had​ ​subsidised​ ​and​ ​hosted​ ​Teddy​ ​Roosevelt’s​​African​ ​safari​ ​or​ ​that​ ​the​ ​earlier President​ ​Roosevelt​ ​had​ ​written​ ​of​ ​the​ ​bravery​ ​and​ ​fortitude​ ​of​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt,​ ​in​ ​letters decades​ ​before.​  ​Hunt’s​ ​marriage​ ​to​ ​literary​ ​giant​ ​Louise​ ​de​ ​Vilmorin,​ ​who​ ​was​ ​a​  ​close​ ​friend of​ ​the​ ​Polignac​ ​family​ ​members​ ​who​ ​typically​ ​resided​ ​in​ ​the​ ​castle,​ ​an​ ​author​ ​who​ ​almost​ ​surely would​ ​have​ ​been​ ​known​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Paris​ ​librarian​ ​Countess,​ ​seems​ ​to​ ​have​ ​escaped​ ​the​ ​Countess’s attention​ ​in​ ​her​ ​description​ ​of​ ​the​ ​mysterious​ ​Mr.​ ​Hunt.

Hunt​ ​negotiated​ ​provisions​ ​from​ ​the​ ​local​ ​townspeople,​ ​managed​ ​to​ ​fuel​ ​the​ ​castle,​ ​hunted​ ​and cooked​ ​the​ ​meals.​ ​He​ ​located​ ​a​ ​nearby​ ​radio​ ​operator​ ​to​ ​stay​ ​informed.​ ​When​ ​word​ ​came​ ​of​ ​an armistice,​ ​and​ ​a​ ​provisional​ ​government​ ​formed​ ​in​ ​Vichy,​ ​the​ ​party​ ​traveled​ ​there​ ​to​ ​seek​ ​return home.​ ​In​ ​Vichy,​ ​Hunt​ ​took​ ​the​ ​first​ ​train​ ​of​ ​the​ ​newly​ ​reestablished​ ​service​ ​back​ ​to​ ​occupied Paris.

With​ ​ex-wife​ ​Louise​ ​remarried​ ​to​ ​a​ ​Hungarian​ ​count​ ​and​ ​living​ ​abroad,​ ​Hunt​ ​had​ ​custody​ ​of their​ ​three​ ​daughters​ ​boarded​ ​with​ ​in​ ​Lausanne,​ ​Switzerland.​  ​Aged​ ​9,​ ​10​ ​and​ ​11,​ ​his​ ​daughters were​ ​already​ ​on​ ​their​ ​way​ ​to​ ​meet​ ​their​ ​father​ ​in​ ​Paris,​ ​as​ ​Hunt​ ​mobilized​ ​to​ ​help​ ​another​ ​friend of​ ​Meserve.

Count​ ​Charles​ ​de​ ​Chambrun,​ ​younger​​ brother​ ​of​ ​Aldebert,​ ​was​ ​an​ ​Ambassador​ ​of​ ​France​ ​known for​ ​having​ ​sent​ ​the​ ​1914​ ​encoded​ ​message​ ​from​ ​St.​ ​Petersburg​ ​to​ ​the​ ​French​ ​President,​ ​notifying him​ ​that​ ​the​ ​Czar​ ​was​ ​then​ ​mobilizing​ ​against​ ​Germany,​ ​beginning​ ​World​ ​War​ ​I.​ ​Informed​ ​by​ ​an old​ ​friend,​ ​the​ ​Czar’s​ ​foreign​ ​minister​ ​Count​ ​Nicolas​ ​de​ ​Basily,​ ​that​ ​French​ ​encryption​ ​had​ ​been broken,​ ​Charles​ ​famously​ ​transmitted​ ​that​ ​message​ ​via​ ​De​ ​Basily’s​ ​Russian​ ​encryption​ ​instead. Thus​ ​the​ ​French​ ​President​ ​received​ ​the​ ​message​ ​before​ ​the​ ​Germans.This​ ​bold​ ​diplomatic​ ​work of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​world​ ​war​ ​had​ ​placed​ ​Charles​ ​de​ ​Chambrun​ ​on​ ​the​ ​enemy’s​ ​black​ ​list,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​second.

Charles’s​ ​informer,​ ​Count​ ​Nicholas​ ​de​ ​Basily​ ​was​ ​the​ ​diplomat​ ​who​ ​later​ ​drafted​ ​the​ ​abdication of​ ​Czar​ ​Nicholas​ ​II.​  ​He​ ​then​ ​fled​ ​the​ ​Russian​ ​revolution​ ​and​ ​traveled​ ​extensively,​ ​seeking​ ​to regain​ ​status.​ ​He​ ​married​ ​a​ ​beautiful​ ​American​ ​in​ ​Paris,​ ​fleeing​ ​before​ ​the​ ​Nazi​ ​invasion,​ ​much to​ ​the​ ​relief​ ​of​ ​his​ ​new​ ​wife’s​ ​father,​ ​none​ ​other​ ​than​ ​Harry​ ​Fessenden​ ​Meserve.

Charles​ ​and​ ​Aldebert​ ​de​ ​Chambrun​ ​had​ ​one​ ​more​ ​brother,​ ​the​ ​eldest,​ ​the​ ​Marquis​ ​Pierre​ ​de Chambrun.​  ​Pierre​ ​had​ ​been​ ​the​ ​sole​ ​vote​ ​against​ ​the​ ​formation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Nazi-friendly​ ​Vichy government,​ ​after​ ​the​ ​invasion​ ​of​ ​Paris.​ ​Although​ ​middle​ ​brother​ ​Count​ ​Aldebert​ ​had​ ​been​ ​able to​ ​follow​ ​Henry​ ​back​ ​to​ ​Paris​ ​and​ ​resume​ ​his​ ​posts,​ ​including​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Hospital​ ​which​ ​soon​ ​became an​ ​underground​ ​railroad​ ​for​ ​escaping​ ​Jews​ ​and​ ​downed​ ​American​ ​pilots,​ ​his​ ​freedom​ ​was​ ​due​ ​in part​ ​to​ ​family​ ​connections.​ ​Aldebert’s​ ​own​ ​son,​ ​Count​ ​Rene,​ ​was​ ​married​ ​to​ ​the​ ​daughter​ ​of​ ​the head​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Vichy​ ​government​ ​-​ ​the​ ​very​ ​authority​ ​Rene’s​ ​uncle​ ​Pierre​ ​had​ ​famously​ ​opposed.

Charles​ ​de​ ​Chambrun​ ​thus​ ​treaded​ ​carefully​ ​between​ ​the​​differing​​politics​ ​of​ ​his​ ​brothers​ ​and nephew,​ ​seeking​ ​an​ ​exit​ ​from​ ​occupied​ ​Paris.

Charles​ ​found​ ​that​ ​exit​ ​on​ ​October​ ​26,​ ​1940,​ ​when​ ​he​ ​and​ ​his​ ​wife​ ​fled​ ​with​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt and​ ​his​ ​daughters.​ ​Hunt’s​ ​knowledge​ ​of​ ​the​ ​subways​ ​took​ ​them​ ​further​ ​than​ ​most​ ​knew​ ​one could​ ​travel​ ​in​ ​the​ ​underground,​ ​emerging​ ​to​ ​the​ ​waiting​ ​car​ ​of​ ​Count​ ​Aldebert​ ​de​ ​Chambrun, complete​ ​with​ ​privileged​ ​license​ ​plates.​ ​Though​ ​his​ ​daughters​ ​were​ ​French​ ​citizens,​ ​prohibited by​ ​the​ ​Nazi​ ​regime​ ​from​ ​leaving​ ​France,​ ​Henry​ ​Negotiated​ ​visas​ ​through​ ​the​ ​Vichy​ ​connections Aldebert’s​ ​son​ ​Count​ ​Rene.​  ​Henry​ ​then​ ​took​ ​the​ ​party​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Spanish​ ​border​ ​at​ ​Hendaye.​ ​There, guards​ ​rightly​ ​suspected​ ​a​ ​hidden​ ​Chambrun​ ​fortune​ ​and​ ​jewels.​ ​Henry’s​ ​daughter​ ​Alexandra remembered​ ​soldiers​ ​unraveling​ ​the​ ​braids​ ​she​ ​and​ ​her​ ​sisters​ ​wore,​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​hidden​ ​gems. “They​ ​looked​ ​right​ ​at​ ​them​ ​in​ ​the​ ​doll​ ​clothes​ ​boxes​ ​my​ ​sister​ ​carried.​ ​They​ ​thought​ ​they​ ​were toys,”​ ​she​ ​later​ ​remembered.

Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​and​ ​his​ ​daughters​ ​boarded​ ​the​ ​S.S.​ ​Exeter​ ​on​ ​November​ ​3,​ ​1940,​ ​setting perilous​ ​sail​ ​to​ ​New​ ​York.​ ​The​ ​Eldest​ ​Chambrun​ ​brother,​ Marquis​ ​Pierre,​ ​remained​ ​in​ ​Paris.​ ​In 1941,​ ​his​ ​son,​ ​Marquis​ ​Jean​ ​Pierre​ ​Francoise​ ​de​ ​Chambrun,​ ​arrived​ ​in​ ​Cincinnati​ ​carrying intelligence​ ​of​ ​German​ ​gunboats.​ ​Marquis​ ​Jean’s​ ​uncle​ ​Charles,​ ​after​ ​escaping​ ​Paris​ ​with

Henry,​ ​became​ ​an​ ​integral​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​​French​ ​Embassy​ ​in​​Washington,​ ​D.C,​ ​before​ ​returning​ ​to the​ ​reconstruction​ ​of​ ​postwar​ ​Paris​ ​as​​a​ ​member​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Academie​ ​Francaise

In​ ​1941​ ​Hunt​ ​returned​ ​to​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​and​ ​the​ ​large​ ​home​ ​of​ ​his​ ​parents,​ ​where​ ​his​ ​mother​ ​still resided.​ ​There​ ​he​ ​joined​ ​the​ ​family’s​ ​trusty​ ​corporate​ ​secretary,​ ​Walter​ ​Hunsaker,​ ​through​ ​whom he​ ​had​ ​been​ ​sending​ ​intelligence​ ​reports​ ​for​ ​years.​ ​Hunt​ ​picked​ ​up​ ​the​ ​reigns​ ​of​ ​the​ ​land-rich, cash-poor​ ​development​ ​efforts​ ​of​ ​his​ ​father​ ​and​ ​Meserve,​ ​who​ ​had​ ​died​ ​earlier​ ​that​ ​year.​  ​Newly flush​ ​with​ ​a​ ​mysterious​ ​capital​ ​infusion​ ​and​ ​owed​ ​tremendous​ ​favors​ ​by​ ​the​ ​War​ ​Department, Henry​ ​was​ ​able​ ​to​ ​facilitate​ ​the​ ​unlikely​ ​construction​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Huntridge​ ​Theater,​ ​named​ ​in memory​ ​of​ ​his​ ​Father.​ ​A​ ​family-friendly​ ​master​ ​planned​ ​development​ ​included​ ​a​ ​tree-lined avenue​ ​meant​ ​to​ ​recall​ ​the​ ​pre-Nazi​ ​Champs​ ​Elysees,​ ​traveling​ ​around​ ​a​ ​park​ ​and​ ​perfect​ ​rows​ ​of houses​ ​built​ ​to​ ​accommodate​ ​returning​ ​soldiers​ ​and​ ​their​ ​families.​ ​His​ ​Episcopalian​ ​sister donated​ ​land​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Christ​ ​Episcopal​ ​Church​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Huntridge​ ​Neighborhood.​ ​Henry,​ ​a​ ​devout Catholic,​ ​saw​ ​to​ ​the​ ​donation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​land​ ​for​ ​Saint​ ​Ann’s​ ​Church​ ​and​ ​Bishop​ ​Gorman​ ​High

School​ ​with​ ​the​ ​help​ ​of​ ​a​ ​friend​ ​and​ ​client​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Bank,​ ​Romy​ ​Hammes. Businesses​ ​named​ ​for Huntridge​ ​fell​ ​into​ ​the​ ​place​ ​across​ ​the​ ​street​ ​from​ ​the​ ​Theater,​ ​on​ ​a​ ​matching​ ​parcel.​ ​An oval-shaped​ ​park​ ​graced​ ​the​ ​center​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Huntridge​ ​neighborhood,​ ​with​ ​roundabouts.​ ​Crowning the​ ​entrance​ ​was​ ​the​ ​Huntridge​ ​Theater.

A​ ​complete​ ​ghost​ ​in​ ​his​ ​business​ ​dealings,​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​​Hunt​ ​saw​​his​ ​father’s​ ​vision​ ​realized. Hunt​ ​lands​ ​hosted​ ​the​ ​developments​ ​of​ ​the​ ​early​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​Strip,​ ​including​ ​the​ ​El​ ​Rancho, Frontier,​ ​Stardust,​ ​Riviera,​ ​Sahara,​ ​Landmark,​ ​Thunderbird,​ ​Silver​ ​Slipper,​ ​Circus​ ​Circus, International​ ​and​ ​other​ ​hotels,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​the​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​Convention​ ​Center,​ ​Convention​ ​Center Drive,​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​Country​ ​Club​ ​and​ ​much​ ​more.​ ​Appointed​ ​Honorary​ ​Consul​ ​of​ ​Monaco​ ​in 1956.​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​retired​ ​to​ ​France​ ​after​ ​selling​ ​his​ ​last​ ​large​ ​parcel​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Strip​ ​in​ ​1963 to​ ​upstarts​ ​Merv​ ​Adelson,​ ​Harry​ ​Lahr​ ​and​ ​Irwin​ ​Molasky.​ ​Like​ ​others​ ​with​ ​whom​ ​he​ ​did business,​ ​these​ ​men​ ​never​ ​met​ ​the​ ​mysterious​ ​Mr.​ ​Hunt.​  ​Buried​ ​in​ ​a​ ​simple​ ​grave​ ​in​ ​a​ ​village not​ ​far​ ​from​ ​Versailles,​ ​he​ ​lies​ ​forever​ ​close​ ​to​ ​the​ ​love​ ​of​ ​his​ ​life,​ ​Louise​ ​de​ ​Vilmorin.

Mysterious​ ​to​ ​the​ ​end,​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt’s​ ​name​ ​and​ ​photo​ ​are​ ​almost​ ​nonexistent​ ​in​ ​the​ ​annals of​ ​his​ ​time. Hunt​ ​Street​ ​in​ ​Ames,​ ​Iowa​ ​shares​ ​the​ ​Huntridge​ ​namesake,​ ​as​ ​does​ ​the​ ​town​ ​of​ ​Hunts​ ​Point​ ​on Lake​ ​Washington.​ ​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt​ ​was​ ​advisor​ ​to​ ​Presidents​ ​Theodore​ ​Roosevelt​ ​and​ ​Herbert Hoover,​ ​his​ ​wife’s​ ​cousin.​ ​He​ ​was​ ​business​ ​partner​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Emperor​ ​of​ ​Korea​ ​and​ ​Booker​ ​T. Washington,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​same​ ​time.​ ​He​ ​lunched​ ​with​ ​Mark​ ​Twain​ ​and​ ​inspired​ ​Louise​ ​de​ ​Vilmorin. Yet​ ​the​ ​Hunt​ ​legacy​ ​remains​ ​largely​ ​unknown​ ​at​ ​the​ ​very​ ​place​ ​of​ ​his​ ​greatest​ ​impact.

In​ ​1937,​ ​Jessie​ ​Noble​ ​Hunt,​ ​widow​ ​of​​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt,​​traveled​ ​with​ ​friends​ ​to​ ​America’s newest,​ ​largest​ ​reservoir.​ ​The​ ​body​ ​of​​water​ ​created​ ​by​ ​America’s​ ​largest​ ​Dam​ ​had​ ​taken​ ​five years​ ​to​ ​fill.​ ​Sailing​ ​to​ ​the​ ​new​ ​lake’s​ ​center,​ ​Jessie​ ​fulfilled​ ​her​ ​husband’s​ ​last​ ​wish,​ ​sprinkling the​ ​ashes​ ​of​ ​the​ ​international​ ​titan​ ​who​ ​first​ ​envisioned​ ​it​ ​all.​ ​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt​ ​rests​ ​at​ ​Lake Mead,​ ​Nevada.

Huntridge​ ​Theater​ ​is​ ​an​ ​obvious​ ​tribute​ ​to​ ​Leigh​ ​S.​ ​J.​ ​Hunt.​  ​But​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt’s​ ​memorial to​ ​that​ ​theater’s​ ​primary​ ​investor​ ​Harry​ ​Fessenden​ ​Meserve,​ ​and​ ​perhaps​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Chambrun family,​ ​is​ ​less​ ​obvious,​ ​though​ ​larger.​ ​It​ ​lays​ ​hidden​ ​in​ ​plain​ ​sight,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​very​ ​parkway​ ​which transcends​ ​the​ ​area,​ ​beginning​ ​at​ ​the​ ​corner​ ​dominated​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Theater.​ ​Here,​ ​in​ ​Hunt’s​ ​own inspiration,​ ​perhaps​ ​we​ ​solve​ ​his​ ​riddle.

The​ ​source​ ​of​ ​the​ ​cash​ ​infusion​ ​evident​ ​upon​ ​the​ ​return​ ​of​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​to​ ​Las​ ​Vegas during​ ​World​ ​War​ ​II​ ​is​ ​uncertain.​ ​But​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt’s​ ​dangerous​ ​endeavors​ ​to​ ​bring​ ​to safety​ ​the​ ​family​ ​and​ ​fortune​ ​of​ ​the​ ​direct​ ​descendants​ ​of​ ​General​ ​Lafayette,​ ​the​ ​Chambrun family,​ ​speaks​ ​of​ ​dedication​ ​and​ ​loyalty.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​aerial​ ​view​ ​of​ ​the​ ​streets​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Huntridge neighborhood​ ​of​ ​the​ ​1940’s,​ ​those​ ​familiar​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cincinnati​ ​may​ ​find​ ​a​ ​familiar symbol.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​the​ ​Society​ ​which​ ​gave​ ​its​ ​founding​ ​President,​ ​George​ ​Washington,​ ​the​ ​medallion which​ ​came​ ​to​ ​be​ ​known​ ​as​ ​the​ ​Washington​ ​Eagle.​ ​Like​ ​the​ ​streets​ ​and​ ​parks​ ​of​ ​Washington, D.C,​ ​and​ ​those​ ​of​ ​Versailles,​ ​the​ ​eagle​ ​medallion​ ​was​ ​designed​ ​by​ ​original​ ​Society​ ​member

Charles​ ​L’Enfant.​ ​It​ ​remains​ ​to​ ​this​ ​day​ ​the​ ​emblem​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Society.​ ​An​ ​outline​ ​of​ ​this​ ​very symbol​ ​may​ ​be​ ​seen​ ​in​ ​the​ ​original​ ​layout​ ​of​ ​the​ ​streets​​and​ ​parks​​of​ ​Huntridge.​  ​This​ ​historic design​ ​element​ ​has​ ​until​ ​now​ ​escaped​ ​public​ ​recognition.

 

Left:​ ​The​ ​Dress​ ​Medallion ​ of​ ​ the​ ​ Society​​  of​ ​ the​ ​ Cincinnati​  Right:​ ​Huntridge ​ neighborhood​ ​ streets,​ ​ circa​ ​ 1944.​

Huntridge​ ​Theater​ ​can​ ​be​ ​seen​ ​in​ ​the​ ​upper​ ​center-right – Photos:​ ​Jonathan​ ​Warren​ ​collection

Count​ ​Rene​ ​de​ ​Chambrun,​ ​son​ ​of​ ​Aldebert​ ​and​ ​Clara​ ​de​ ​Chambrun,​ ​returned​ ​to​ ​France​ ​after World​ ​War​ ​II,​ ​with​ ​wealth​ ​sufficient​ ​to​ ​re-take​ ​possession​ ​of​ ​Château​ ​de​ ​la​ ​Grange-Bléneau,​ ​the castle​ ​of​ ​his​ ​forefather,​ ​the​ ​Marquis​ ​de​ ​Lafayette.​ ​When​ ​Count​ ​Rene​ ​died​ ​in​ ​2002,​ ​he​ ​bequeathed his​ ​fortune​ ​to​ ​his​ ​Foundation.​ ​Five​ ​years​ ​later,​ ​a​ ​descendant​ ​of​ ​George​ ​Washington​ ​auctioned​ ​the original​ ​Eagle​ ​medallion​ ​for​ ​$5.3​ ​million.​  ​The​ ​purchaser​ ​was​ ​the​ ​Josee​ ​and​ ​Rene​ ​de​ ​Chambrun Foundation.​ ​The​ ​Washington​ ​Eagle​ ​now​ ​rests​ ​in​ ​the​ ​castle​ ​of​ ​Lafayette.

Long​ ​after​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Revolution,​​the​ ​aging​ ​Marquis​ ​de​ ​Lafayette​ ​returned​ ​to​ ​the​ ​US​ ​in​ ​1824. The​ ​triumphant​ ​homecoming​ ​successfully​ ​re-sparked​ ​the​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cincinnati​ ​in​ ​its​ ​second generation​ ​of​ ​members.​ ​Upon​ ​his​ ​death​ ​ten​ ​years​ ​later,​ ​Lafayette​ ​was​ ​interred​ ​as​ ​he​ ​himself​ ​had arranged​ ​in​ ​detail,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​famed​ ​Picpus​ ​Cemetery​ ​in​ ​Paris,​ ​under​ ​earth​ ​brought​ ​to​ ​Paris​ ​from America.​ ​An​ ​American​ ​state​ ​from​ ​which​ ​that​ ​soil​ ​was​ ​gathered​ ​by​ ​Lafayette​ ​himself​ ​is​ ​the same​ ​state​ ​on​ ​which​ ​the​ ​old​ ​General​ ​landed​ ​to​ ​re-ignite​ ​the​ ​Society.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​also​ ​this​ ​state​ ​which​ ​was home​ ​to​ ​the​ ​regiment​ ​that​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​joined​ ​in​ ​World​ ​War​ ​I;​ ​the​ ​same​ ​state​ ​which​ ​holds the​ ​crypts​ ​of​ ​generations​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Meserve​ ​and​ ​De​ ​Basily​ ​families,​ ​side​ ​by​ ​side;​ ​the​ ​state​ ​with​ ​the town​ ​of​ ​Hunt​ ​Valley​ ​and​ ​a​ ​development​ ​also​ ​called​ ​“Hunt​ ​Ridge”.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​the​ ​state​ ​which​ ​granted honorary​ ​citizenship​ ​to​ ​all​ ​members​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Society​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Cincinnati,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​in​ ​which​ ​Lafayette gathered​ ​his​ ​men​ ​to​ ​make​ ​his​ ​tide-turning​ ​attack​ ​on​ ​Yorktown,​ ​effectively​ ​sealing​ ​the​ ​defeat​ ​of the​ ​British​ ​in​ ​the​ ​American​ ​Revolution.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​not​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​see​ ​that​ ​it​ ​was​ ​for​ ​this​ ​state​ ​and​ ​these relationships​ ​that​ ​Henry​ ​Leigh​ ​Hunt​ ​named​ ​the​ ​tree-lined​ ​thoroughfare​ ​which​ ​originated​ ​at Huntridge​ ​Theater,​ ​conceived​ ​by​ ​his​ ​father​ ​as​ ​the​ ​new​ ​city’s​ ​residential​ ​promenade,​ ​its​ ​nucleus, its​ ​mysteriously​ ​named​ ​centerpiece,​ ​Maryland​ ​Parkway.

Posted with permission.

 

 

Jonathan​ ​Warren​ ​has​ ​resided​ ​in​ ​Las​ ​Vegas​ ​for​ ​48 years.​  ​He​ ​is​ ​the​ ​Honorary​ ​Consul​ ​of​ ​Monaco,​ ​the Chairman​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Liberace​ ​Foundation,​ ​was​ ​the Founding​ ​President​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Academie​ ​Francophone​ ​de Las​ ​Vegas.​  ​This​ ​article​ ​is​ ​based​ ​on​ ​his​ ​upcoming book,​ The​ ​Consul​ ​of​ ​Monaco:  A​ ​forgotten​ ​global dynasty​ ​that​ ​spawned​ ​modern​ ​Las​ ​Vegas .