New: Huntington Store and Visitor Center

The Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center is now open.

If you've ever watched a plant that promises to bloom, you know that it can take weeks, or even months, before the smallest petal sighting is made.

Fans of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens have been doing a bit of that sort of intense staring in recent years, though it was not a plant, and a possibility of a bloom, that drew their attention: It was the new Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center, the airy and capacious structure set to replace the longtime entrance to the San Marino landmark.

The bloom on this particular construction project -- er, plant -- was finally sighted on Jan. 14 when the "front, northernmost section" made its grand debut. The debut included a first peek at "a substantially larger Huntington Store, a new specialty coffee shop, and a new full-service admissions and membership area -- all surrounded by a shady grove."

The store, by the by, is described as being "twice as large as its predecessor" so count on your floral-fronted cards and scarves and umbrella needs to be fully met. (Cheers to the Huntington, too, for its very fine art and history book selection, as well as a whimsical selection of kids' books.)

The Huntington's former entryway and gift shop were introduced in 1980, if you feel like it has been a good three and a half decades. (It has.)

Still to come? Well, this plant has more blossoms to show: A 400-seat auditorium will open at the center in April, plus a quartet of classrooms and a garden cafe. "Six and a half acres of new gardens" are part of the area as well.

Private donations fully funded the center, says the Huntington, "with a lead gift from Charles T. Munger."

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As with the natural world, timing is everything, dear Huntington: Your center reveals are rolling out just ahead of spring, which is just about the part of the year when flowers around Southern California begin to pop with buds and color and life.

And if you're wondering about the Beaux Arts buildings on the property, and the incredibly grand estate of Mr. Henry Huntington, wonder no longer: Those particular plants -- er, structures -- stand as they always have, though the new visitor center "harmonizes" with their early 20th-century appearance and feel.

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