Huntington’s century-old Japanese Garden to close for year-long restoration

SAN MARINO – In preparation for a year-long $6.7-million restoration, the Huntington Library’s historic Japanese Garden will close to the public on April 4 and reopen to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012.

“It will not have looked so good since it was built in 1912,” said James Folsom, the Huntington’s director of gardens. “It’s the first real restoration since perhaps 1957, when the San Marino League helped restore and open the Tea House, and we re-roofed it. But it’s the first time we’ve ever truly restored (the garden), and the first time the ponds have been dealt with.”

Henry Huntington created the garden on his estate as the height of fashion in 1912, and bought many of the trappings – including the 19th-century Japanese house and a two-story house from the 1868-1912 Meiji period – from a failed commercial tea garden at California Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue.

To visitors, an estimated 30 million since it opened to the public in 1928, the sunken nine-acre garden with the iconic red bridge and classic Japanese house will retain a familiar look. Much of the rehab will focus on infrastructure, updated irrigation and accessibility.

But there will be a complete historic restoration of the house, and fresh looks for much of the landscape and hardscape, Folsom said.

For those renovations, and installation of the restored 1960s ceremonial Seifu-An teahouse donated by the Pasadena Buddhist Temple in September, craftsmen will come from Japan, Folsom said.

Kyoto-based landscape architect Takuhiro Yamada will work on the garden; architect and craftsman Yoshiaki Nakamura – son of the donated teahouse’s original architect, who oversaw its preparation for shipping back to Kyoto for restoration in September – will return to the Huntington for its reconstruction on a ridge on the garden’s southwest.

Seeing images from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan last week, “It’s hard to imagine they won’t

Huntington Library’s Japanese Gardens closing for renovation

be affected in some way,” Folsom said.

But after talking to friends in Kyoto, which is not in the area hit hardest by the 9.0 magnitude Tohuku quake, Folsom said he was somewhat reassured of everyone’s safety.

“And the tea house was not damaged – it’s already dismantled and packed, ready to go,” he said.

“There was no direct impact, although that’s hard to imagine, and I don’t want to speculate,” Folsom said of the situation in Kyoto. “My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this.”

The renovation is being funded in part by an endowment bequest from the late Mary B. Taylor Hunt, a longtime San Marino resident and 50-year supporter of the Japanese Garden; an estate gift, made jointly by Deane Weinberg and Michael Monroe of Los Angeles; and major grants by The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and The Rose Hills Foundation, Huntington officials said.

626-578-6300, ext. 4482

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