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Descanso Gardens

May 27th, 2009 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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This past weekend I dragged my fiance and my parents out to stalk Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge – another location that I discovered thanks to my new favorite stalking book.  The 160 acre botanical garden has been featured in countless movies and television shows over the years and is also a popular wedding venue. 

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E. Manchester Boddy (pronounced “Boh-dee”) first purchased the property now known as Descanso Gardens in 1937 to build a home for his family.  Besides being the owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News, Boddy was also a horticulturalist and a commercial camellia grower and he needed a piece of property large enough to cultivate his prized flowers.  Rancho de Descanso, as it was then known, fit the bill perfectly.  In 1938, he commissioned a 12,000 square foot home to be built on the property.  The 22-room mansion, named the Boddy House, was designed in the Hollywood Regency style by “architect to the stars” James E. Dolena.  Boddy positioned the home in the very southeast corner of Descanso – which means “rest and repose” in Spanish – so that he and his family would be able to enjoy specatular views of the San Gabriel Mountains.  In 1953, Boddy sold the entire 160 acre property, including his custom built home, to the City of Los Angeles, who later opened it up to the public.  In 2007, the Boddy Home was featured as the Pasadena Showcase House of Design and was completely renovated and restored to its former glory.  The bottom floor of the home is open for all visitors of Descanso Gardens to tour.  The Boddy House can also be rented out for weddings and private events.   

descanso-gardens-1241 Descanso Gardens encompasses a twenty-acre oak tree forest, a bird sanctuary, a five-acre rosarium featuring over three thousand roses, a Japanese tea garden, countless waterfalls and koi ponds, a lilac garden, and a California garden featuring Redwood trees, California poppies, and chaparral plants.   And, while the gardens are very beautiful, unfortunately, I can’t really say that I’d recommend stalking the place.  :(  Sadly, Descanso was just simply not on par with the nearby Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, which is one of my favorite places in all of L.A.   The staff at Descanso was also not very friendly and there were about a million screaming kids running through most of the botanical gardens and horticultural displays, which really made our whole experience unenjoyable.  What can I say – I am not big on screaming kids.  :)  LOL  And, while I am glad that I saw the place, sadly, I don’t think I’d ever go back.  :(

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But, being that Descanso Gardens has been featured in numerous movies and television shows over the years, I just had to blog about it. :)  Descanso was the location of Nikolas Natchios’ funeral in the 2003 movie Daredevil.

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Its greenhouse was used in a prominent scene in Minority Report.

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And Reese Witherspoon has filmed no less than three productions at the Gardens!   In Legally Blonde, Descanso was transformed into Golden Springs Spa where Reese and her partner Luke Wilson interviewed Raquel Welch.  The building located just to left of Descanso’s main entrance was used as the entrance to the spa.

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Both the interior and the exterior of the Boddy House were used as the home of John Voight, where Reese spends Christmas, in last year’s Four Christmases.  Because the movie has not yet been released on DVD, I was not able to make screen captures of it.  :(    According to one of the Boddy House docents, though, the mansion was significantly dressed up for the filming of the movie and is not very recognizable.  Four Christmases  featured many areas of the Boddy House, including the front entrance, main foyer, library, and living room.  Reese also filmed her latest Avon commercial, which has yet to be released, at Descanso Gardens.  

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An episode of Mad Mad  was also recently filmed on Descanso’s main lawn area (pictured above).  Descanso Gardens was also featured in Memoirs of a Geisha, America’s Sweethearts, Graduation Day, Tiny Dancer, Congo, Land of the Lost, the recently wrapped Untitled Duplass Brothers Project  starring Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill, and John C. Reily, and Eddie Murphy’s new movie The Incredible Shrinking Man

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  :)

Stalk It: Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive in La Canada Flintridge.  The Gardens are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The entrance fee is $8 for adults and $3 for children aged 5 to 12.  Children under 5 are free.  You can visit the Descanso Gardens website here.

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4 comments

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  1. Bobby Dias says:

    Somethings are missing- Boddy’s sister remained living in the house as one condition of the sale. About 1957 the Nature Conservancy scared off the county’s gardeners which lead to the plants falling into complete ruin. In about 1959 the County Of Los Angeles asked me to repair this place and The Huntington Gardens and the Arboretum Gardens which had also fallen into complete ruin(same cause-the Nature Conservancy wanting to extort money). Lots of work later I finished the work at all three places, no charge by me.

    • Mary Kay Prather says:

      Mr. Dias,
      I am a new docent at Descanso and have never heard that a Boddy family member remained after 1953. About how long did someone stay? When you say “repair this place”, do you mean the Gardens or the home. Thanks for the information.

  2. Natalie says:

    Do you know what part of America’s Sweethearts it was used?


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  1. […] where Creighton (Jon Voight) lived, which was actually the Boddy House in Descanso Gardens, which I blogged about way back in May 2009 – were sets built on a soundstage at Ren-Mar Studios (now Red Studios Hollywood, which I […]

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