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The Red Hill Estate (1929-1941) / Archbold Biological Station (founded 1941), as a part of the Historical Legacy of the Roebling and Archbold Families
by Fred E. Lohrer, Archbold Biological Station, April 2005
The genesis of the Archbold Biological Station, and its longstanding (64 years, 1941-2005) success in ecological research and education, is based on a remarkable confluence of philanthropy by two of America’s major business families; the Roebling and the Archbold. The Roebling family excelled in construction and manufacturing engineering; building enduring suspension bridges, manufacturing plants, and even estates. The Archbold family had a strong tendency for the support of science. Both families donated land for parks, conservation, and science.
These family traditions influenced science several times, as in the founding of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (Roebling-1968) and the Archbold Tropical Research Center (Archbold-1989), and enhanced parks and conservation, as in the creation of the Glover-Archbold Park, Washington, DC (Archbold-1924), Highlands Hammock State Park, Highlands County, Florida (Roebling-1935), and the Middleham Estate addition to the Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica, West Indies (Archbold-1982).
At the Archbold Biological Station, all three family traditions; construction of enduring buildings, creation of parks and preserves, and generous support of science, came together in continuing perfection.
Details for these institutions and places, as well as for other ancillary accomplishments and philanthropies, aspects of the historical legacy of the Roebling and Archbold families, are presented below.
Family Trees This is an abbreviated family tree for the seven Roebling and six Archbold family members mentioned in this narrative. (see Fig, 1)
The Roebling family. John August Roebling (1806-1869); 3 of his sons, Washington Augustus Roebling (1837-1926), Ferdinand William Roebling (1842-1917), and Charles Gustavus Roebling (1849-1918), who together formed the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company; one grandson, John August Roebling, II (1867-1952), son of Washington A.; and two great-grandsons, Donald Roebling (1908-1959), son of John A., II, and Robert Clowry Roebling (1904-1983), grandson of Ferdinand W.
The Archbold family. John Dustin Archbold (1848-1916); two of his children, Anne Mills Archbold (1873-1968) and John Foster Archbold (1877-1930); and four of his grandchildren, John Dana Archbold (1910-1993), son of Anne M., Richard Archbold (1907-1976) and Adrian Archbold (1909-1974), sons of John F., and Frances Archbold Hufty (1912-), daughter of John F.
The Roebling Family
In 1831, John August Roebling, a German-trained engineer, immigrated to the United States where he conducted a remarkable career as an innovative construction engineer and an enterprising businessman. His invention of wire rope (steel cable) and the vigorous promotion of its use transformed practices in transportation, communication, construction, and industry in the emerging industrial United States (think; suspension bridges and cable cars, telegraph and electrical cables, construction cranes, elevator cables for skyscrapers, cables use in logging, mining, and shipping, and more). His grandson, John A. Roebling, II, constructed the 1,058-acre Red Hill Estate in southern Highlands County, Florida, during 1930-33, and he donated it to Richard Archbold in 1941.
Roebling, the engineer and businessman. In America, John A. Roebling founded a farming community for immigrant German families in western Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh) at Saxonburg (Butler Co.). Later, in 1837, Roebling became an engineer for the State of Pennsylvania, conducting surveys for canal and railroad routes. In 1841 he devised a method of making wire rope for hoisting canal boats up and down gravity planes traversing ridges. He set up a wire rope machine at his farm and enlisted the help of local farmers to work in his protean factory. He patented his method in 1842 and soon after the rural village of Saxonburg was transformed into a thriving town as the home of a new industry. In 1849 he established the Roebling Wire Company at Trenton, Mercer Co., New Jersey.
Roebling suspension bridges. Of all the uses for his invention, wire rope, John A. Roebling is best remembered for being the first engineer to use steel cable in suspension bridges. His first suspension bridge (1845) was a canal aqueduct spanning the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh. (The sole survivor and largest of four suspension aqueducts erected by Roebling during 1847-1850 carried the Delaware & Hudson Canal over the Delaware River above Port Jervis, NY. The canal was abandoned 1898, and later converted to, and still functions as, a private highway bridge.) In 1855 he completed the first suspension bridge for a railroad, this over the Niagara Gorge in western New York. This bridge, the first suspension bridge with stiffening trusses, established Roebling’s international reputation as a designer of suspension bridges and also established the overarching template for suspension bridge design for the next 100 years. The culmination of John Roebling’s bridge-building career was the design for the Brooklyn Bridge (completed in 1883), itself a National Historic landmark. During 1859-1955, the Roebling Wire Company/John A. Roebling’s Sons Company supplied steel cable for 24 suspension bridges in the United States, Quebec, Canada, and El Salvador, and provided design services for some of them.
Roebling philosophy of construction and of management of workers. John A. Roebling always built his bridges and manufacturing buildings with great care, superior materials, and beyond the maximum possible loads. Early suspension bridges in Europe and United States were built with passageways suspended by chains from wire cables. Some of these early bridges failed. Likewise, some early suspension bridges built without cross bracing of the deck also failed in high winds. These failures only served to increase Roebling’s faith in his methods for construction. Some of Roebling’s inventions and some for which he was granted patents for were concerned with safety of manufacturing equipment, boilers, and railroads. Roebling considered himself a field engineer. He worked daily with his construction crews, always alert for hazards to the workers, constantly reviewing the work, and devising better techniques. He trained many of his workers and often promoted from within. All these ideas were instilled in his three sons; Washington, Ferdinand, and Charles who later formed the J.A. Roebling’s Sons Company (Steinman 1945), and they had a strong influence in the design and construction of John A. Roebling, II's Red Hill Estate (1929-1941) in Lake Placid, Florida.
The Archbold Family
John Dustin Archbold was a key executive in the growth and success of the Standard Oil Company. He became a Director of Standard Oil of Ohio Company in 1875 and by 1897 was functionally in charge of the company. As president (1896-1911) of Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (founded 1882) he was largely instrumental in building up that corporation’s business. In 1886, John D. Archbold became a member of the Board of Trustees of Syracuse University, and later (1893) the Board’s president, a position he held until his death in 1916. Over 30 years (1893-1914) he contributed funds (nearly $6,000,000) for 8 buildings at Syracuse University, including the full cost of the Archbold stadium (opened 1907, demolished 1972), Sims Hall (men's dormitory, 1907), the Archbold gymnasium (1909, nearly destroyed by fire in 1947 but still in use), and the oval athletic field. A bequest from his estate gave an additional $500,000 to the university. Among his other charities was the New York Kindergarten Association, for which he built its headquarters building, in memory of his deceased daughter, Frances Dana Wolcott, and for which he also provided an endowment fund of $100,000. His grandson, Richard Archbold, founded the Archbold Biological Station in 1941 (Moore 1930,National cyclopaedia, ABS Archives).
Anne M. Archbold. A long-time resident of Washington, DC, Anne Archbold was a strong supporter of science (see section 4c), parks and conservation (see section 5b) , and the the Gallinger Municipal (later DC General) Hospital, where they named the hospital Nurses Residence the Anne Archbold Hall, in honor of her support.
John Foster Archbold. After graduating from Yale University, John Archbold traveled extensively in Asia for his father, visiting possible oil-production areas. John Archbold retired from business early in his life, and in 1910 moved his family to Thomasville, Georgia, where he built a substantial (stucco-clad) Mediterranean-style plantation home overlooking the Ochlocknee River at Chinquapin Plantation. On June 30, 1925, the new hospital in Thomasville was dedicated as the John D. Archbold Memorial Hospital (now the Archbold Medical Center), a gift to the town from John F. Archbold in memory of his father, John D. Archbold. The original structure was so well designed that it is still in use as the core of the greatly expanded hospital facility. John Archbold also shared in the family’s interest in supporting science (see section 4d).
Richard Archbold. In 1929, at age 22, Richard Archbold began a 10-year phase of biological exploration and a lifelong career as a patron of science, first as a benefactor of the American Museum of Natural History and later as the founder and Resident Director of Archbold Biological Station (see section 7). In 1929 he participated as a photographer and mammalogist in a biological expedition to Madagascar, the expedition first supported by his father and later by his mother and himself. He later organized Archbold Expeditions and in 1933-1939 funded, organized, and led three biological expeditions to New Guinea (see section 4f). As the Resident Director of Archbold Biological Station (1941-1976), he worked to establish, and continually improve, the scientific facilities of the Station and he supported all visiting scientists by maintaining living accommodations and food service from his personal funds (see section 7). After 1941, Richard Archbold was active in several local service organizations (Red Cross, Boy Scouts). He helped found the Glades Electric Cooperative in 1945 (and remained a Trustee of the Cooperative until his death in 1976) and the Lake Placid Lions Club in 1948. He was Secretary of the Highlands Hammock State Park Advisory Council (1956-1976). He conducted (1946) some of the original surveys for National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Preserve, near Naples, Florida. In 1974 he received the Conservation Achievement Award of the Florida Conservation Council.
Adrian Archbold. For 37 years (1937-1974) Adrian Archbold was the Secretary-Treasurer of Archbold Expeditions (formerly Biological Explorations), the Corporation founded by Richard Archbold to support his activities in biological exploration and ecological research. As Secretary-Treasurer, Adrian had fiduciary oversight responsibilities for the Corporation’s investments, which provided the necessary funding for activities with the American Museum of Natural History and for salaries and scientific expenses at Archbold Biological Station.
Frances Archbold Hufty. In 1976, Frances Hufty, Richard Archbold’s sister, assumed leadership of Archbold Expeditions after her brother’s death (see section 7). She brought several decades of experience in leadership positions for many charities to the task, and especially the conservation activities of the Palm Beach Branch of the Garden Club of America. Also in 1976, she became chairman of the advisory board of Pine Jog Conservation Education Center, West Palm Beach, Florida. In addition to her leadership for Archbold Expeditions, Frances Hufty has made many financial contributions to Archbold Biological Station over the years to support science and conservation (see section 4h).
Family Patterns - Support of Science The Roeblings and Archbolds donated land and facilities for three scientific research institutions. The Archbolds supported five separate scientific research programs. The Roeblings amassed and donated a major collection of minerals. Individuals are listed in the order of their birth dates.
Washington Augustus Roebling. Although Washington Roebling’s activities were severely constrained because of caisson disease (the bends), a debilitating illness he acquired when working in the caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge, he remained intellectually active over his long life. Begun in his student years, and continuing throughout his entire life, he amassed a remarkable and comprehensive collection of minerals. His son, John A. Roebling, II, donated the collection to the Smithsonian Institution in 1926, where it formed the core the greatly enlarged collection, and he also gave an endowment of $150,000 for the upkeep and enlargement of the Roebling Mineral Collection
John August Roebling, II. On July 21, 1941, John A. Roebling, II, donated his 1,058-acre, Red Hill Estate (see Red Hill brochure, 1939) to Richard Archbold. The Red Hill Estate became the Archbold Biological Station , and the Roebling estate buildings became the core campus of the Station (see sections 6 & 7).
Anne Mills Archbold was a supporter of botanical exploration and research in the Pacific Ocean. In 1939 she financed the construction of a Chinese Junk, the “Cheng Ho,” an authentic copy, but diesel powered, of a 15th-century vessel. She supported, and participated in, two cruises of the Cheng Ho. The first cruise of the Cheng Ho (January - July 1940), in the east Indies, was led by David Fairchild, a tropical botanist explorer. Collection of living plant materials (seeds, cuttings, rooted plants, tubers, etc.) was the primary purpose of the cruise. The second cruise of the Cheng Ho (November 1940 - July 1941), to the Fiji islands, was under the leadership of Otto Degener, University of Hawaii, and in cooperation with the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (she then sold the vessel to Degener who formed a trading and exploration company).
John Foster Archbold was one of the original supporters of the 1924-1929 Cooperative Quail Investigation conducted in the Thomasville, Georgia, region by Herbert L. Stoddard. This was the first comprehensive field study in the United States of an upland game bird. John F. Archbold and his wife, May B. Archbold, supported the American share (through the American Museum of Natural History) of the 1929-1931 French-Anglo-American Zoological Expedition to Madagascar. John’s son, Richard was the mammalogist and photographer on this expedition.
Robert Clowry Roebling. In 1968, Robert C. Roebling donated his 500-acre Modena Plantation on the northern tip of Skidaway Island (near Savannah), his home for 34 years, to the State of Georgia for the establishment of a marine research institution, the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SIO).From the beginning, Robert Roebling developed Modena as a working cattle and hog farm in close collaboration with the University of Georgia and with careful improvement of the breeding stock as a primary goal. Remote and island-bound, Modena was self-supporting. The well-built and diverse Roebling physical plant gave SIO a head start. The early employees of SIO depended heavily on the infrastructure inherited from Roebling for offices and support activities. Roebling buildings/structures still in use include; two deep-water docks and a machine shop, a steel and concrete cattle barn that now functions as laboratory and storage space, and several Roebling buildings that are for student and visiting scientist housing.
Richard Archbold was a major benefactor of the American Museum of Natural History where he was a Research Associate of the Department of Mammalogy (1932-1976). As a Research Associate, he founded Archbold Expeditions, based at the museum, and he funded, organized, and conducted 3 biological expeditions to New Guinea during 1933-1939. After WW2, he also substantially funded 4 more expeditions to New Guinea and one to Cape York, Australia, through Archbold Expeditions, and at his death in 1976 he was supporting a 3-year field study of mammals of Celebes by Guy Musser, the museum’s Archbold Expeditions Curator of Mammals. The Archbold Expeditions New Guinea/Australia vertebrate specimens, records, and photographs were donated to the Museum. Richard Archbold also sponsored several exhibits in the museum’s Hall of North American Mammals and in the Whitney Hall of Pacific Birds. On December 30, 1969, Richard Archbold received the Museum’s centennial commemorative medal for distinguished service from the Trustees of the Museum. Probably, Richard Archbold’s greatest contribution to science was that he founded (1941) and endowed (1976) Archbold Biological Station, and added substantially to its original land holdings of 1,058 acres. In 1973, Richard Archbold purchased 2,773 acres of pristine habitat adjacent to the western boundary of the Station. On 2 July 1973, he donated 1,574 acres of this tract to the Station and donated the remaining 1,249 acres upon his death in 1976 (see section 7)
John Dana Archbold. For many years, John D. Archbold was the joint sponsor of the Bredin-Archbold-Smithsonian Biological Survey of Dominica in which 55 scientists from the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and 20 other institutions have participated. This support produced, up to the end of 1974, 60 scientific papers that documented more than 170 previously undescribed species, as well as much ecological information about the island’s biota. In 1989, John D. Archbold donated his 190-acre Springfield Plantation on Dominica, West Indies, to Clemson University as the Archbold Tropical Research Center. The Center now operates at Springfield Center as the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Consortium, with leadership from Clemson University. The mission includes research and education to promote the conservation of biodiversity in the moist tropics (see section 5c)
Frances Archbold Hufty (& family). In 1976, Frances Hufty assumed leadership of Archbold Expeditions, the non-profit corporation that oversees Archbold Biological Station. For 15 years she served as President of the Board and then continued as Chairman. She and her family, and especially her husband Page Hufty, guided the Station through now, nearly 30 years of continued growth and success of the Station’s programs (see section 7). In January 28, 1983, Frances and Page Hufty helped purchased the Lake Annie Tract (which includes pristine Lake Annie, a 90-acre sinkhole lake) for the Station. In 2002 she donated funding for an additional 3,648 acres of land adjacent to the Archbold Biological Station. This property, called the Reserve, is mostly ranchland with portions of native habitat. The Reserve will be a site for long-term research on restoration ecology (ABS Archives).
Family Patterns - Land Donated for Parks /Conservation The Roeblings and Archbolds donated land for three parks (city, state, and national). Individuals are listed in the order of their birth dates.
John August Roebling, II, and Margaret Shippen Roebling. In 1930, Mrs. Margaret Roebling donated the $50,000 needed by a local group of citizens to purchase a 500-acre, pristine cabbage palm-live oak forest, Hooker Hammock, near Sebring, Highlands County, Florida. A private, non-profit corporation, the Tropical Florida Parks Association, was formed to manage the park. Mrs. Roebling, until her death on October 24, 1930, was a charter member of the corporation, and the Red Hill Estate Engineer, Alexander Blair, was a Vice-President of the corporation, and also Mrs. Roebling’s representative. After her death, John A. Roebling continued support of the park’s development and maintenance (fencing, and construction of roads, paths, and water-control structures), contributing a further $300,000 during 1931-1934, when his Red Hill Estate engineer, Alexander Blair, was also the supervisory engineer for the park. In 1935 the land was donated to the state of Florida as the nascent Highlands Hammock State Park, one of a handful of newly-created state parks. At the transfer of property John A. Roebling also donated another $25,000 for maintenance (Altvater 1979). In 1941 John A. Roebling donated his 1,058-acre Red Hill Estate (Including 6 concrete buildings and a steel water-storage tank) to Richard Archbold who founded the Archbold Biological Station on the site (see sections 6 &7)
Anne Mills Archbold. Anne Archbold lived in England during the early 20th century, and after WWI she returned to the United States. In 1922 she purchased 78 acres of forested land at Georgetown, Washington, DC, where she built her home, Hillandale. She soon donated part of her land to the city (in memory of her father) as part of the 250-acre Glover-Archbold Park (founded in 1924, initially with 27 acres from Anne Archbold, and then 77 acres from Charles C. Glover, Sr.) Her 25,000-square-foot Hillandale mansion was designated a District of Columbia Historic Landmark in 1990 and a National Historic Place in 1995 - District of Columbia building#94001595.
John Dana Archbold. In 1975, John D. Archbold donated 950 acres of pristine tropical forest, the Middleham Estate on Dominica, West Indies, to The Nature Conservancy (see section 4g). A 16,000-acre Trois Pitons National Park was soon established adjacent to the Archbold property. In 1982, The Nature Conservancy donated the Archbold property to Dominica, for inclusion in the national park, as the Archbold Preserve.
The Founding of the Archbold Biological Station
Donald Roebling, son of John A. Roebling, II, and school-time friend of Richard Archbold, facilitated the donation of his father’s Red Hill Estate to Richard Archbold in 1941. In 1940, when deteriorating political conditions in the western Pacific prevented a planned 4th expedition to New Guinea, Richard Archbold led a successful six-month biological expedition to southeastern Arizona to “collect facts instead of specimens.” It was in Arizona that the importance of a good physical plant for a field station was re-enforced in Richard’s mind. After the Arizona expedition, a chance meeting occurred between Richard and Donald in New York City. Donald learned of Richard’s desire to keep his team of research biologists together at a field station during the post-New Guinea period. Donald, mindful of his father’s plan to donate his Red Hill Estate for a non-profit use, told Richard of the existence of the Red Hill Estate. Richard visited Red Hill and saw its potential for a biological field station. Thus Donald Roebling became the key facilitator in the genesis of Archbold Biological Station. On July 21, 1941, John A. Roebling and his second wife, Helen Price Roebling, deeded 1,058 acres of land to Archbold Expeditions as an “absolute, unqualified and unrestricted gift.” Following this remarkable donation of the Red Hill Estate, Richard Archbold founded and sustained a biological field station where scientists conduct research on the ecology of native plants and animals of central Florida
Description of Archbold Biological Station
The long-term success of ecological research stations is based on three essential ingredients; land, physical plant, and an adequate dedicated endowment. These ingredients came together at the Archbold Biological Station in the proper balance that has continued to attract talented scientists, interested in long-term ecological research, for over 64 years.
Physical plant. The extraordinary Roebling buildings at the Red Hill Estate, soundly built of poured concrete and using excellent materials and construction practices, were originally the support and storage facilities for a mansion that was never built. In October 1941, Richard Archbold became the Resident Director of the Archbold Biological Station, supporting the operation of the Station, managing the day-to-day operation of the facility, and living in the Main Building (the Roebling Storehouse) until his death in 1976. With its own water system and power generator, the Red Hill Estate was self-sufficient in isolated rural south-central Florida. Richard Archbold, drawing on his experiences of four biological expeditions to Madagascar and New Guinea, re-enforced that self-sufficiency by establishing the living accommodations and scientific support systems necessary to make the Station the ideal place for long-term research, in all aspects of field biology, by staff and visiting scientists. He converted storage units in the Main Building to laboratories, offices, and a library. These improvements have not modified the major historical features of the buildings, and the structure has been well maintained; for example the original bronze windows and doors are all fully functional, and the bathroom fittings, water-treatment plant, and other Roebling-era constructions are in daily operation. He also constructed 6 housekeeping cottages for visiting scientists, built a dining room, and established meal service. He maintained the Roebling machine shop and carpenter’s shop, kept a small core of experienced Roebling employees on the payroll, and brought his airplane mechanic, Robert Nagel, to the Station as a skilled machinist. In 1945, Richard Archbold helped establish Glades Electric Cooperative, thus bringing electricity to the rural sections of Highlands and Glades counties. In 1947, the electric lines were extended to Archbold Biological Station. With dependable electricity he began the long process of air-conditioning the Main Building and the cottages, and he continually upgraded the laboratories, scientific equipment, and support facilities during his 35 years at the Station.
Land. The original Roebling land, 1,058 acres of pristine pine and oak forest, became the long-term ecological research capital of the Station. In 1973, Richard Archbold added to that research capital by purchasing 2,773 acres of adjacent pristine habitats. In 1983, Frances and Page Hufty helped to purchased the adjacent 239-acre Lake Annie Tract. In the 1990s the Station added 1,300 acres of adjacent pristine habitats either through purchases from Foundation funds or by acquisition of conservation mitigation tracts. In 2002, Frances Hufty donated funds for 3,648 acres of adjacent pasture land and native habitats to the Station. The property, now 8,841 acres (actually owned by the parent foundation, Archbold Expeditions), includes over 6,000 acres of pristine native habitats that are a globally significant preserve for many species of endangered plants and animals.
Endowment. At his death in 1976, Richard Archbold left his personal fortune as a permanent endowment for the Station. Archbold Expeditions has successfully managed the endowment for continued support.
Summary. With Archbold family leadership, the Station continues to thrive. Since the early 1980s the Station has added: new permanent scientific staff; space in new buildings for research, education, and service; new housing for visiting scientists; and more land. The mission of Archbold Biological Station includes ecological research, land management, education, and conservation. Through good leadership, the original ingredients of physical plant, land, and endowment, embellished over the years, continue to produce quality products in all Station programs. Archbold Biological Station is recognized as one of the premier biological field stations in the nation.
I am grateful to the following people for their help; Cheryl Henderson for Fig.1, Beverly Mazzeo for genealogy research, Mike Mazzeo for scanning photos and for digital image processing, W.R. "Rip" Roebling for information about Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Modena Pantation, Hilary M. Swain for helpful comments on several drafts of this document, and Charlotte Wilson for the loan of John A. Roebling, II, and Margaret Roebling photos and for finding Roebling Web sites.
ABS Archives (Archbold Biological Station Archives). The historical archives at Archbold Biological Station are a partially cataloged collection of; newspaper articles and obituary notices, magazine articles, correspondence, brochures, unpublished reports, meeting notices, photographs, and other ephemera about; the Archbold Biological Station, Station-related people, the Red Hill Estate, and regional history. The ABS archives are available by appointment. The archives catalog is not digital.
Altvater, A. 1979. Highlands Hammock. Sebring, Florida, Sebring Historical Society.
Degener, O. 1949. Naturalist’s south Pacific expedition - Fiji. Honolulu, Paradise of the Pacific.
Fairchild, D. 1945. Garden islands of the great east. New York, C. Scribner’s Sons.
Megathlin, C. 2003. Skidaway Institute of Oceanography: Celebrating 35 years of discovery 1968-2003. Scenes, Newsletter Skidaway
Marine Sci. Foundation. July 2003:4-7.
Moore, A.L. 1930. John D. Archbold and the early development of Standard Oil. New York, MacMillan.
Morse, R.A. 2000. Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station. Gainesville, Univ. Press of Florida.
National cyclopaedia of American biography. 1892-1984. New York, J.T. White.
Rand, A.L. 1936. The distribution and habits of Madagascar birds. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 72:143-499.
Steinman, D.B. 1945. The builders of the bridge: The story of John Roebling and his sons. New York, Harcourt Brace.