SAN MARINO, Calif. — For nearly a century, The Huntington Library’s Rose Garden Tea Room has been one of Southern California’s most treasured and idyllic oases. A throwback to more genteel times, the small outpost in the heart of a sprawling botanical garden estate served tea, scones, and finger sandwiches to visitors until March 2020, when COVID-19 prompted its temporary closure.
Now, more than three years later, afternoon tea service is poised to resume in an upgraded and expanded space that pays tribute to the original building and culinary offerings but brings them both into the 21st century. The tearoom reopens to the public on May 24. Reservations will be available through OpenTable beginning May 10.
“When the pandemic hit and forced the Huntington to close its doors for the first time in a hundred years, we realized it presented an opportunity to renovate and restore the tearoom,” The Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence said Monday during a preview of the updated space.
“To do so in an otherwise terrible period felt like something about the future, something healthy and looking forward.”
The Huntington had several objectives when it undertook the renovation. Preserving and restoring the original building was a given, but The Huntington also wanted to create new building additions that were contemporary yet compatible with the existing structure and offer a variety of elegant dining spaces for visitors and the various occasions they celebrate there.
“Everything we intended to be meaningful about a history that we want to share, but with lots of people,” Lawrence said of a three-part tearoom that now seats 164.