The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens announced Wednesday that the front portion of its new Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center will open Jan. 14.
A new entrance facade will be flanked by an arrival court filled with California pepper trees and framed by grapevines. A new admissions and membership building will have lockers, an ATM and new restrooms. Other new visitor amenities at the San Marino museum and gardens will include a simple coffee shop serving sandwiches and salads and a 5,000-square-foot store.
These spaces will be connected by a U-shaped loggia leading to a courtyard with tables and chairs and shaded by podocarpus trees.
The facilities opening in January are part of a $68-million project, named after the Huntington’s president, that broke ground in April 2013. When the rest of the education and visitor center opens this April, the Huntington will have 52,000 square feet of new space for educational programming, performances, events and an upgraded cafe (in addition to the coffee shop).
“This is incredibly important for us because it’s a new front door,” said Laurie Sowd, the Huntington’s vice president for operations, during a hard-hat tour of the site earlier this year. “We want you to feel like you are arriving at someone’s home.”
That is what visitors are doing -- arriving at the former home of railroad magnate Henry Huntington. When construction is completed, a central garden off the entrance will lead directly to Huntington’s former estate, which now houses the museum’s collection of European art.
In total, 6.5 acres of new gardens will be added, with a focus on plants native to Southern California -- an area formerly lacking in the gardens.
Sowd said about 160 workers per day have been working to meet the January opening date. She described the new cafe as “Starbucks light” and said the new store is twice the size of the old store, with a vaulted, sky-lighted ceiling that gives the room a "greenhouse type look.”
“All spaces on the project have light coming in on at least two sides,” Sowd said as she surveyed the construction site. “The future is not so far away, as it turns out.”