Inside Huntington Library’s Stunning Rose Garden Tea Room Renovation: A Look at the $11.2 Million Makeover

By EDDIE RIVERA, Editor, Weekendr Magazine
Published on Apr 25, 2023


One of Southern California’s most venerable and iconic dining experiences has returned. 

The Rose Garden Tea Room at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens closed for the first time in 100 years in March 2020, when the  COVID-19 pandemic shuttered most public facilities around the world. 

Museum leadership took advantage of the time to complete an $11.2 million, 18-month renovation which began in late 2021 and was displayed at a media preview Monday. 

The Tea Room dazzled with its exquisite transformation.

“This renovation celebrates one of our most beloved structures,” said Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence. “These innovative upgrades will make for an extraordinary tea experience, and the new Shakespeare Pavilion expands our capacity and creates a fluid space between indoors and outdoors that our visitors will love.” 

The renovation work creates three separate dining areas and includes the restoration of the front of the original 1911 building, along with a new outdoor dining area on the east side, facing the Shakespeare Garden. On the west side of the building, the room that faces the Herb Garden has been renovated and will be made available for private rentals. 

The entire space can serve 164 people at capacity, including the front room known as the Tea Room, the Herb Room on the building’s west side, and the outdoor Shakespeare Pavilion on the building’s east side. 

The project was developed by The Huntington with Architectural Resources Group, and led by Project Architect Stephen Farneth. 

“It’s a privilege to work on this important building,” Farneth said Monday, “in this really important place with a really talented team of people.”

Farneth continued, “Through this path, we have come to really appreciate the work of the original designers, Henry Huntington and Myron Hunt. They created the original structures, multiple structures and gardens, and those structures provide the underlying mortar that has allowed the Huntington to grow.”

“Everything at The Huntington is about indoors and outdoors,” he continued,  “and with the Rose Garden Tea Room project, we thought it was important to connect the building to some of the visual and physical elements of the surrounding gardens.”

The Rose Garden Tea Room will continue its elegant English-style tea service with a selection of teas, seasonal house-made scones, and a variety of savory and sweet offerings, including smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and caviar; banoffee tart with dulce de leche, banana jam, and caramel crunch; and buckwheat financier with lemon pistachio glaze. 

As Executive Chef Jeff Thurston said Monday, “Five years ago when I arrived here at this amazing place,  I saw that the inspiration for us is all around us every day.”

“One of my favorite things to tell people about this place,” Thurston reflected, “is the mornings, when I arrive, and the property is quiet, and the mist is just rising. I get to see the coyotes and other animals when no one else is around, and it’s really inspiring to bring that into our work in the kitchen.”

Media visitors Monday were treated to a full array of the Tea House offerings from scones (with Devon cream and lemon curd)to strawberry, saba, and whipped black pepper cream cheese sandwiches, as well as cucumber and tarragon chicken sandwiches, along with chocolates and an array of seasonal fruit tarts.

The Rose Garden Tea Room was designed by the preeminent architect Myron Hunt—who also designed the Rose Bowl Stadium— to serve as a billiard room and bowling alley for Huntington founder Henry E. Huntington. Hints of the original bowling alley can still be seen in the entranceway to the dining room, as Farneth pointed out. 

The Tea Room is set to open for dining on May 24. Reservations can be made through Open Table beginning May 10.

The Rose Garden Tea Room at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, is at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, California 91108.

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