Huntley transformed to Yuhaaviatam Center, dedication is May 11

Claremont Graduate University President Len Jessup inside the foyer of the school’s new Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

by Steven Felschundneff |

For decades Huntley Bookstore served as a Claremont Colleges hub where students bought textbooks, grabbed a snack, shopped for gifts, or just sat down to read.

But like so many other institutions, the internet changed the way students accessed classroom materials and the bookstore became somewhat obsolete. So, when The Claremont Colleges Services decided to move the bookstore to a smaller space, Huntley was put up for sale.

In December 2020 Claremont Graduate University received a $14 million gift from the San Manuel Band of the Mission Indians to purchase Huntley and build “an innovative multidisciplinary health research center serving vulnerable populations in the inland Empire and Indian country.” The gift is one of the largest in CGU’s nearly 100-year history.

“San Manuel’s collaboration with CGU demonstrates how partnerships can provide a strong and effective framework to address longstanding social inequities,” read a CGU news release at the time. “Discussion of this historic gift began in 2019 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and it comes at a time when such partnerships are needed to produce even more meaningful responses to public health challenges.”

The mid-century modern bookstore was designed by A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons and featured post and beam construction with floor-to-ceiling windows to bring the outside environment into the building.


Claremont Graduate University’s new Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff


Due in part to its historical significance, Claremont Heritage worked closely with CGU’s architect Brian Bloom to retain the spirit of the original design even as they transformed it for academic use. Heritage was particularly interested in seeing the building’s exterior preserved and returned to its original appearance. This included the restoration of a large wood pergola that stretches across the structure’s entrance.

According to a news release from the university, Claremont Heritage plans to honor CGU during its annual gala with the Bess Garner Preservation Award recognizing the adaptive reuse of the Huntley.

“The outside looks like the original design,” CGU President Len Jessup said. “The inside however is quite a transformation.”

On the main floor of the 23,000-square-foot structure one enters into a large open lobby with soaring ceilings and two meeting rooms separated from the public space by walls of glass. Two large skylights illuminate a newly constructed central staircase that leads to the bottom floor, where classrooms and clinical study labs are housed. Faculty offices are tucked away on a smaller third floor.

“Probably the most dramatic thing that happened in here is the hole in the floor,” Jessup said, referring to the center staircase. “That was never there before. You had to go around to some crazy [hidden] stairwell and all of the books were stored down here. It was just a big warehouse. We wanted to use that space, to open it up and make it easier to get to.”

The new design retains an outdoor reading space directly behind the structure which is set off from the street behind high privacy walls. A shade structure that mimics the design of the front entrance pergola centers the space, which features neat tables with umbrellas and landscaped planters.

While the gift from San Manuel enabled CGU to purchase the building, the school still had to pay $5 million for the renovations. San Manuel contributed an additional $500,000 toward this effort, joining other donors, including Prime Health Care Foundation.

The result is a multiple-disciplinary research hub called the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies. It will house CGU’s School of Community & Global Health as its anchor tenant. The center is already being utilized by the global health school, which had been operating out of rented space on Foothill Boulevard.

A dedication is planned for May 11.

The name Yuhaaviatam means “people of the pines,” a reference to the San Manuel’s ancestors. In recognition of that tie to the past a mural depicting a powwow by CGU graduate Julie Weaver Loffer, “Before we were Distant,” hangs in the main atrium at Yuhaaviatam.

Faculty and staff work in teams conducting the school’s research which covers a range projects, including assistant professor Jessica DeHart, who studies breast cancer survivorship which impacts women locally and around the globe.

Other areas of research include “deaths of despair,” prevention methods in Native American communities; cancer survivorship and support for cancer care providers; obesity and Type 2 diabetes in working class communities; aging and cognitive decline; and burnout among medical care providers.

“Real, substantial breakthroughs happen when people from many disciplines come together and collaborate,” Jessup wrote in a news release. “That’s the hallmark of our transdisciplinary philosophy. And the purchase of the Huntley makes it possible to create such a space for that kind of engagement on our campus.”

“CGU works with more than 300 health-related organizations to improve the quality of life, especially in communities most in need,” according to the university’s website. “Our goal is to provide powerful, impactful solutions to seemingly intractable challenges.”

How might original architect A. Quincy Jones react to the renovation? Jessup was confident it would be well received.

“I think he would approve that the outside was left alone. He probably would be blown away by the inside,” he said.


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