Renovation Fact Sheet - Countdown Begins for the Reopening of The Huntington’s Historic Tea Room
Renovation Fact Sheet
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The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, undertook the renovation of its historic Rose Garden Tea Room from 2021 to 2023. The project restored the front of the original 1911 building; created a large outdoor dining area along its east side, flanking the Shakespeare Garden; and improved functionality in its service areas. Developed by The Huntington with Architectural Resources Group, the project also upgraded the indoor dining space and modernized the kitchen. The upgraded dining space on the building’s west side, which opens out onto the Herb Garden, will be made available for private rentals, in addition to being used for the Tea Room’s general service. The Tea Room can seat 164 and, for the first time, offers an indoor-outdoor dining experience.
The Rose Garden Tea Room was built in 1911 and originally served as Huntington founder Henry E. Huntington’s billiard room and bowling alley. The building was designed by noted architect Myron Hunt, who also designed Henry and Arabella Huntington’s residence (now the Huntington Art Gallery), the Library building, and the Huntingtons’ garage (now the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery). In 1928, a year after Henry Huntington’s death (Arabella died in 1924), The Huntington opened to the public, and the billiard room and bowling alley were transformed into a “tearoom,” serving luncheon for visitors, staff, and researchers. By the 1940s, the Tea Room had a broader audience. Guests were able to enjoy options such as bread and butter with jam, toasted English muffins with marmalade, and lettuce-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. In the 1960s and ’70s, the space served as an extension of the cafeteria used by staff and visiting scholars, and it was also used for casual meetings. “Afternoon tea,” drawing on the English style of tea service, began to be offered in the 1980s and has continued since then. In 2020, when the pandemic forced The Huntington to temporarily close to the public for the first time in 100 years, there was an opportunity to embark on a long-overdue renovation and restoration of the Rose Garden Tea Room.
December 2021: Groundbreaking
April 25, 2023: Ribbon-Cutting
May 24, 2023: Public Opening
Thomas Polansky, vice president for operations and facilities
Audrey Ng, facilities project manager
Seth Baker, gardens principal designer
Architectural Resources Group
DL English Design
- Adaptive use of an existing structure.
- The complex meets the performance objectives of California Building Code, Title 24, Energy Code.
- Windows are shaded by loggias, trellises, and deep wall recesses, reducing the heat load.
- Skylights and windows use energy-efficient glass.
- Air handlers and air distribution systems are energy efficient.
- Lighting and light control systems are energy efficient.
- Chilled water is created on-site, providing enhanced energy efficiency.
- Plumbing systems are water efficient.
- Plants in the gardens are low water use.
- Light-colored paving reduces heat absorption in the hardscape areas.
Architectural History of Site
In 1903, Henry E. Huntington (1850–1927) bought the property that is now The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Huntington commissioned architect Myron Hunt (1868–1952) to design a 55,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts residence (now the Huntington Art Gallery, completed in 1911 and restored by Earl Corp. and Architectural Resources Group in 2008), an 8,000-square-foot garage (now the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, completed in 1911 and restored by Brenda Levin in 2000), and a 96,000-square-foot Library (built in 1919) on the property. John Russell Pope (1874–1937) designed the Mausoleum on the grounds (completed in 1929), which includes sculpture by John Gregory (1879–1958).
Since Henry Huntington’s death, the institution has added an entrance area and multipurpose room (both of which were demolished to make room for the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center) and an extension to the Library building, all designed by Whitney R. Smith (1980); the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art (Paul Gray, 1984) and its additional wings, the Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery (Frederick Fisher, 2005) and the Jonathan and Karin Fielding Wing (Frederick Fisher, 2016); and the Frances Lasker Brody Botanical Center (Offenhauser and Associates, 2000–04). There have been five additions to the original Library building, including the 90,000-square-foot Munger Research Center (Earl Corp., 2004). The most recent addition was the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center (Architectural Resources Group, 2015).
*The Rose Garden Tea Room was funded entirely through philanthropic gifts.
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