Restoring a Classic

The L&B Room is back and more glorious than ever.

Armchair nappers take note: this spring, the Linonia and Brothers Reading Room in Sterling Memorial Library reopened its doors following an extensive floor-to-ceiling restoration. The project was made possible by a lead gift from University Library Council member J. Frederick Berg, Jr. ’66 and the support of other generous donors. They are among generations of Yalies with fond memories of the room, a beloved space for studying and reading (and sometimes snoozing) in wood-paneled splendor.

“We are delighted that this campus icon, steeped in history and cherished in the hearts of Yale alumni across generations, will now continue to welcome and charm students in its second century and beyond,” says Barbara Rockenbach, the Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian.

A long view of the Linonia and Brothers Reading Room following the restoration.
A long view of the Linonia and Brothers Reading Room following the restoration.

Illustrious Beginnings

A focal point of architect (and member of the Yale Class of 1889) James Gamble Rogers’ original vision for Sterling Memorial Library, the L&B Room, as it’s commonly known, was designed in the 1920s in the style of a grand Tudor living room, with book-lined alcoves, an ornate plaster ceiling, a vast stone fireplace, and leaded-glass windows overlooking Selin Courtyard.

The room was named in honor of two student literary societies, the Linonia Society and the Brothers in Unity, which each donated their substantial collections of modern literature to Yale University Library in the 1870s. When Sterling Memorial Library opened in 1931, the thousands of volumes in the two collections were relocated to the L&B Room, to be leisurely browsed and enjoyed in the comfort of overstuffed armchairs and sofas, many of them upholstered in a handsome shade of pine green.

Polishing a Gem

Nine decades later, Yale set out to restore the L&B Room’s exquisite craftsmanship to its original beauty while adding the conveniences of twenty-first-century heating, cooling, and electrical systems. Announcements about the anticipated restoration inspired a groundswell of support from the room’s legions of admirers.

“Returning to L&B as an alumnus has always brought back fond memories of my undergraduate years at Yale,” says Berg. “Supporting the room’s restoration was the perfect way to celebrate all that Yale made possible for me and to honor my parents, whose love and encouragement gave me constant and unfailing support.”

Berg was joined in providing essential funding for the project by Lisa Evanson Washburn ’89, Wesley Mittman LePatner ’03 and Evan H. LePatner ’03, the Cornelia Cogswell Rossi Foundation, friends of David Swensen ’80 PhD, and the late Margot Tweedy Egan ’77.

Fred Berg ’66 celebrates the reopening of the L&B Room with family members in the newly dedicated Berg Family Foyer.
Fred Berg ’66 celebrates the reopening of the L&B Room with family members in the newly dedicated Berg Family Foyer. From left to right: Kathleen Vickery, Brian Mueller, Emily Mueller, Fred Berg ’66, Jaeden Graham ’18, Traton Graham, and Lorree Gabossi.

Architects and designers pored over archival photos to get the details of the restoration right, all the way down to the diamond tufting on the reupholstered original sofas. Lighting fixtures and chandeliers were meticulously cleaned and rewired with energy-efficient LED bulbs. Subtle electrical outlets were added around the room within reach of seating areas and workspaces. The room’s original parquet wood flooring, hidden under carpet tile for decades, was recreated with sustainably sourced oak and decorated with bespoke area rugs echoing patterns in the ceiling above.

At the room’s entrance, non-original partitions in the archways were removed to restore the dramatic flow of space and natural light into the main room, as Rogers intended. The transformed entryway, now outfitted with leather seating original to the room and a curated collection of books on Yale and New Haven history, has been renamed the Berg Family Foyer.

A Rave Reception

Most current Yale students never saw the L&B Room before it closed in 2020. One by one, jaws dropped and eyes widened as students flowed through the triple archway of the Berg Family Foyer and into the bright and airy room on its opening day. Within twenty minutes, the alcoves were populated, armchairs and sofas were occupied, laptops were out, books were open, friends were greeting one another, and a new generation at Yale was making the room their own.

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