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Japanese Restoration at the Huntington
SAH/SCC Talk & Tour
Sunday, May 20, 2012

SAH/SCC is proud to present a morning with SAH/SCC Life Member Kelly Sutherlin McLeod, AIA, as we journey into the history and rehabilitation of the 19th-century Japanese House at The Huntington in San Marino, for which she served as the project architect. The restoration of the Japanese House is part of a $6.8-million overall rehabilitation of The Huntington Japanese Garden, which also includes a new Japanese Tea Garden with a 1964 Tea House recently donated to the institution.

We will begin the day by gathering in the Founder’s Room, just off the main entry to the grounds, at 9:30AM for an introductory lecture by McLeod, John Griswold of Griswold Conservation Associates, and Dr. Kendall Brown, Professor of Asian Art History at CSU Long Beach.

After the talk, we will be treated to a tour of the newly re-opened gardens and house, reviewing first-hand details of the preservation and restoration work.

According to information from the Huntington—based on Professor Brown’s research—the house’s preservation plan focused on the exterior and aimed to retain and restore original materials wherever possible. Major alterations were not made, and treatments were designed to emulate and re-create the building’s original finishes and design intent.

After non-original flat paint was removed from the exterior wood features, a penetrating sealer was applied to protect and maintain an appropriately aged finish. Decay at rafter tails was repaired while maintaining as much historic material as possible. The original fine, dark Japanese plaster was also replicated as part of the renovation project.

One of the most prominent and complex features of the Japanese House is its distinctive roof, but many repair jobs throughout the years had obscured the original design and shingle type. The entire roof now has been restored to its original, slightly undulating, shape, with new shingles that replicate the originals.

A focal point of the main façade of the house is the curved, flared-gable portico over the entry. The wood bases of the portico’s columns had been partially buried by stone paving, likely during the 1960s. Excavation revealed that the columns originally rested on traditional wood bases set on granite pads. Although the bases had deteriorated into dust, their shape remained imprinted in the surrounding mortar, providing the evidence necessary to re-create the wood bases for the columns.

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