Born in 1876, Anna Vaughn Hyatt came from a family that supported her interest in animals and the arts. Her mother and sister were both artists. Her father was a professor of paleontology, and she developed a scientist's power of observation. In 1902 she went to New York to pursue her work but she had little formal training as a sculptor, studying for a short time at the Art Students' League. She went to Paris in 1906 and became interested in Joan of Arc and a few years later she was commissioned to create a Joan of Arc for Riverside Park in New York City. It was the city's first public sculpture of a woman, by a woman and the first to depict St. Joan in proper period costume.
By 1915 Anna Hyatt was an established artist making a good living; she was listed as one of ten women in America making more than $50,000 a year. She met Archer Huntington in 1921when he commissioned her to create a medal for the Hispanic Society of America, which he had founded. The following year they both served on a committee for the National Sculpture Society and the next year they were married. She was 47 and he was 53.
The Huntingtons discovered Brookgreen in 1929 while they were looking for a winter home. Anna had developed tuberculosis, so they wanted to escape the cold northern winters. Initially they purchased about 6600 acres of land at Brookgreen for $225,000 and throughout the '30s they bought more parcels until they owned 9,127 acres of forest, beach and riverfront land. The Huntingtons' vision for Brookgreen Gardens -- a place to exhibit American figurative sculpture outdoors amidst native plants and animals -- quickly began to materialize.