Members were able to return to the Huntington Library on Wednesday for the first time in more than three months, and what they saw was “incredible,” according to Jim Folsom, director of the cultural attraction’s Botanical Gardens.
That’s high praise from someone who has spent almost 40 years manicuring the grounds of the famed institution.
Prior to the recent COVID-induced closure, the Huntington had remained open for its entire 100 previous years of existence, save a few days in 2011 after a particularly messy windstorm and a short duration during World War II when a portion of the grounds was shuttered due to staffing shortages.
But at least for now, the Huntington will reopen most of its 130 acres of gardens — with sweeping new safety measures in place — on Wednesday, July 1, to visitors with advance tickets. During July and August, the Huntington will also be open on Tuesdays, historically a day it has been closed, and will offer special evening hours on certain dates during the summer months in order to expand its more restricted capacity due to COVID-19. In July, there will be two monthly free days, instead of only one, to facilitate broader public access to the Huntington’s popular outdoor spaces.
Such high-touch areas as the Children’s Garden and the Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science, as well as the galleries and other indoor spaces, will remain closed during the summer months, but are expected to reopen in the fall. The Huntington’s research library also remains closed.
Folsom told The Tribune his staff has worked hard to get the 130 acres of gardens ready and pointed out two new features that have emerged during the shutdown.
“The north court of the Chinese Garden will be open and visitors can now see a new entrance to the Desert Garden that is being rebuilt,” Folsom said.
Despite a recent spell of hot weather, Folsom said that the landscapes are “as good as they have ever been.”
“That rain in April was incredible,” Folsom said. “I am so sorry we missed out on being there in April and May. That water has stayed with us and it is beautiful.”
Folsom said that the North Court of the Chinese Garden has been recently planted and visitors will “have some fresh things to see.” He also said that the vaunted Rose Garden is experiencing its second bloom of the season, and is “spectacular.”
Those who wish to visit the Huntington beginning on July 1 or before, if a current member, will be required to secure an online ticket in advance at huntington.org. Due to Los Angeles County guidelines for physical distancing as well as group gatherings, only 1,500 tickets for regular daytime visitors will be available each day, representing about a third of the average number visiting on a busy spring day. All visitors will be required to comply with such COVID-related safety measures as wearing face coverings, maintaining 6 feet of social distancing among guests and being screened for symptoms, including a temperature check.
“Getting to this moment where we can open our gardens to visitors again has been a remarkable journey and a very careful process,” said Huntington President Karen Lawrence. “The Huntington is a resilient institution, staffed with energetic and extraordinarily dedicated people who have worked nonstop to stay in touch with our diverse audiences and get us to the point of reopening in a safe way. We have spent considerable time developing our safety protocols to protect our staff, our members, and the public. We know our visitors can’t wait to walk our paths again, and we can’t wait to welcome them back.”
Ticketing and visitor information is posted at huntington.org/visit.