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Anna Barnes Bliss (1851–1935)

Anna Barnes Bliss (1851–1935)

Anna Dorinda Blaksley was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, on June 11, 1851, the daughter of Henry and Mary Elizabeth Stoner Blaksley. She attended St. Agnes Hall in Macon, Missouri, and Miss de Vina’s School in Paris. She married Demas Barnes in Saint Louis on April 25, 1878; in 1878, they moved to New York, first to 88 First Place, Brooklyn, and then, in 1882, to 41 West Fifty-Seventh Street, New York City. They had one child, Mildred Barnes, born on September 9, 1879. After the death of Demas Barnes in 1888, Anna Barnes married William Henry Bliss on April 14, 1894. They lived at 6 East Sixty-Fifth Street, in a townhouse built in 1902 by the architectural firm of Hiss and Weekes, and later at 525 Park Avenue. She was a member of New York’s "400" and a noted philanthropist. In 1916, she contributed through the Aero Club of America the funds necessary to purchase an airplane and train officers of the New York National Guard, who would create an aero company at Mineola, Long Island. In 1920, she donated $600,000 to the League of Political Education, a suffragist organization, to construct Town Hall on West Forty-Third Street, which was designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White and which opened on January 12, 1921. Also in 1921, she gave $50,000 to the Cottage Hospital of Santa Barbara to build and equip two wings, one for the care of children and one for patients with contagious diseases. She made large contributions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, and she set up a scholarship in forestry at Harvard University. In 1918, she built an eighty-room winter home, Casa Dorinda, designed by Carleton Winslow (1876–1946), on forty-eight acres at 300 Hot Springs Road, Montecito, California, near Santa Barbara. In 1926, she created the Blaksley Botanical Garden in Mission Canyon, which was renamed the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in 1939. She built a monument in the Woodlawn Cemetery, New York, dedicated to those who lost their lives in the sinking of the ocean liner Titanic in 1912; she is buried at the back of this monument. Anna Barnes Bliss belonged to the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colony Club, and the Cosmopolitan Club. She died at Casa Dorinda on February 22, 1935, leaving an estate valued at $12,386,000 to Mildred Barnes Bliss.

"Mrs. W. H. Bliss, 84, Benefactress, Dies; Widow of Lawyer Inspired the Town Hall and Donated $600,000 to Build It," New York Times, February 22, 1935.

"$12,386,000 Estate Left by Mrs. Bliss; Daughter is Named Residuary Legatee of Bulk of Patent Medicine Fortune; 4 Bequests of $100,000 Assets Include Trusts Set Up During Her Life for Cultural Groups, Friends and Relatives," New York Times, June 23, 1936.


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