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The Cravens Estate from “Commander in Chief”

May 19th, 2011 | By | Category: Glee Filming Locations, TV Locations


As I mentioned a few weeks back, because of my love for Matt Lanter, the Grim Cheaper and I recently purchased and sat down to watch the first – and only – season of the short-lived television series Commander in Chief, on which the cutie actor portrayed the role of First Son Horace Calloway. I absolutely fell in love with the show and immediately started creating a list of locations to stalk from it, the most important being Pasadena’s former Cravens Estate, now the American Red Cross’ San Gabriel Pomona Valley Headquarters, which was used several times to stand in for the White House on the series. And as soon as the GC and I finished watching the final episode, I dragged my dad right on out to stalk the place. I have actually written about the Cravens Estate once before, back in July of 2008 just a few months after I first started my blog, but it was a very brief post and did not include any photographs of the interior of the property. So, I figured the place was definitely worthy of a re-post.

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The Cravens Estate was originally built in 1930 for Mr. John S. Cravens and his wife Mildred and was designed by San Francisco-area architect Lewis P. Hobart, who was also responsible for constructing the City by the Bay’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral and the Crocker Building on Market Street. After migrating to Pasadena in 1900, the Cravens first commissioned an English-style mansion to be built on a 16-acre plot of land on what was then known as “Millionaires’ Row”. Three decades later, after vacationing in France, the couple decided to tear down their existing abode and build a new one based upon the design of the the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, located just south of Paris. That new manse became known as the Cravens Estate and it cost a whopping $310,000 to construct, making it one of Pasadena’s most expensive homes at the time. After the Cravens, who had no children, passed away in the 1940s, the property went through a succession of owners until finally being donated to the American Red Cross in 1962, whereupon it became their San Gabriel Pomona Valley Headquarters. The mansion is both a Pasadena Cultural Landmark and a Landmark of Historical Significance. In 2010, it was chosen to be used as the Pasadena Showcase House of Design, whereupon numerous designers came in and completely restored the property, which had lost a bit of its luster over the years, back to its original grandeur.

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When I originally dragged my dad out to stalk the estate, I was hoping that we might be allowed to take a quick peek at the interior of the property and snap a few pictures. Well, imagine my surprise when the SUPER-nice receptionist said that if we were interested we could schedule a full-blown tour of the building. If we were interested? IF WE WERE INTERESTED??? Um, heck yes, we were interested!!! So I immediately scheduled a tour and dragged my dad back out to the estate once again just a few days later. What we ended up being given, though, was not what I had expected at all. Our SUPER-nice tour guide was extremely excited over how much I already knew about the estate and my enthusiasm for its filming history, so she wound up taking us on a TWO-AND-A-HALF-HOUR excursion through the property during which she showed us its every nook and cranny, including the attic area, the servants’ quarters and the basement. I can honestly say that it was one of the best stalking experiences of my life! Even my dad enjoyed it! The estate, which boasts four levels, 50 rooms, and just under 20,000 square feet of living space, is an absolutely remarkable piece of property! Pictured above is the entryway, which features hand-painted murals depicting the grounds of the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte.

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Our tour included the Cravens Estate’s reception room;


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dining room;

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Mrs. Cravens’ former sitting room;

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a sun room;

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the media room;

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one of the original bathrooms;

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the upstairs balcony;

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the bridal room;


Mrs. Cravens’ original closet;

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and the back side of the estate.

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The area of the home that I was most excited about seeing, though, was the kitchen, which stood in for the White House Residence’s kitchen on the first few episodes of Commander in Chief.

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The Cravens Estate kitchen was actually remodeled in 2010 for the Pasadena Showcase House of Design, but thankfully, as you can see above, it still looks very much the same as it did on the series.


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We also got to see one of the property’s upstairs rooms . . .

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. . . which was featured on Commander in Chief as the office of First Gentleman Rod Calloway (aka Kyle Secor).

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And we were shown the central stairwell and glass-plated dome area . . .

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. . . which popped up in the series as a White House stairwell in the episode titled “The Price You Pay”.


I just about died when our tour guide said I could pose for a picture on that very same stairwell. LOVE IT!

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The exterior of the Cravens Estate also appeared in “The Price You Pay” episode as a supposed Washington, D.C.-area restaurant where President Mackenzie Calloway (aka Geena Davis) and her husband, Rod, take Attorney General nominee Carl Brantley (aka Alan Arkin) and his wife, Sue (aka Elizabeth Dennehy), out for dinner.

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The Cravens Estate was also used extensively as Dalton Academy during this past season of Glee – a show which has gotten so bad that I can hardly bear to watch it anymore. Anyway, it first showed up in the Season 2 episode titled “Never Been Kissed” in the scene in which Kurt Hummel (aka Chris Colfer) spies on a rival Glee club known as the Warblers. Kurt later transfers to Dalton and joins the Warblers, after which time the estate was featured regularly on the series. Areas of the estate which appeared on the show include the central staircase;

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the entryway;

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the reception room;

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and the dining room.


The Cravens Estate was also featured weekly as the supposed Falls Church, Virginia-area JAG headquarters on the television series of the same name. According to the official Cravens Estate website, JAG producer Donald P. Bellisario used to regularly receive letters from fans stating that they had searched high and low for the property while on stalking expeditions in Falls Church, Virginia, not realizing that it was actually located right here in Pasadena.

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The Cravens Estate was also used extensively as the Silverberg & Blake law firm where Robert Clayton Dean (aka Will Smith) worked in the 1998 thriller Enemy of the State. Areas which appeared in the movie include the exterior;

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the dining room;

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the central stairway;

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and the same upstairs room that was used as Rod Calloway’s office on Commander in Chief.

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In the 2001 movie Swordfish, the estate was where Stanley Jobson’s (aka Hugh Jackman’s) daughter, Holly (aka Camryn Grimes), went to school.

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The back of the estate stood in for the French Consulate where a limo was bombed towards the beginning of the 2007 flick Rush Hour 3.

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The estate’s reception room also appeared in Rush Hour 3.

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According to the book The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, the above-pictured scene from the 2001 movie Traffic, in which Robert Wakefield (aka Michael Douglas) is briefed by the White House Chief of Staff (aka Albert Finney), was filmed in a room at the Cravens Estate, although because only a tight shot of it was shown, I am not able to verify this or make a guess as to the exact room where filming took place.

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The estate was also where Chauncey Gardiner (aka Peter Sellers) and Eve Rand (aka Shirley MacLaine) attended a cocktail party in the 1979 movie Being There.

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The estate also stood in for the University of Minnesota dorm where Brenda Walsh (aka Shannen Doherty) briefly lived in the Season 4 episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210 titled “So Long, Auf Wiedersehen” and “The Girl from New York”.

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In the Season 5 episode of Desperate Housewives titled “Look Into Their Eyes and You See What They Know”, the estate stood in for Beecher Academy, where Edie Britt’s (aka Nicolette Sheridan’s) son Travers (aka Stephen Lunsford) attended school. After Edie’s death, the women of Wisteria Lane – Bree Hodge (aka Marcia Cross), Lynette Scavo (aka Felicity Huffman), Gabrielle Solis (aka Eva Longoria), Susan Mayer (aka Teri Hatcher), and Karen McCluskey (aka Kathryn Joosten) – travel to the school in order to bring Edie’s ashes to Travers.

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The entryway of the Cravens Estate was transformed into a restaurant in the Season 3 episode of Mad Men titled “The Gypsy and the Hobo” for the scene in which Roger Sterling (aka John Slattery) takes Annabelle Mathis (aka Mary Page Keller, who, ironically enough, also had a recurring role on Commander in Chief) out for dinner.

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Fellow stalker/Jennifer Love Hewitt-aficionado Owen also let me know that the estate appeared as Parkdale Academy in the Season 4 episode of Ghost Whisperer titled “Delusions of Grandview”.

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Both the exterior . . .

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. . . and the interior of the property were used quite extensively in the episode.

Until next time, Happy Stalking! Smile

Stalk It: The American Red Cross’ San Gabriel Pomona Valley Headquarters, aka the Cravens Estate from Commander in Chief, is located at 430 Madeline Drive in Pasadena. Here is a map link to the location. You can visit the property’s official website here. If you would like a tour of the estate, please call to schedule an appointment first.



Leave a comment »

  1. Bonnie Hineline Kempner says:

    I am John S. Cravens grand daughter. My mother was his daughter. I have quite a story to tell, but there was always no one interested or it was shut up .
    Bonnie Kempner

  2. Great stalk. I’ve seen so many of the movies.

  3. Owen says:

    Great post. It’s awesome that you got such an in-depth, friendly tour. This looks like such a cool place. I hope I get to see it one day. The central stairwell would be a must-see, and I’d be OK if the tour guide left me alone in the media room so I could sit at that window bench, soaking in the sun and watching “Ghost Whisperer” on my computer. 😉

  4. Melissa says:

    Very good find and its a pretty place..Another Glee location

  5. Lavonna says:

    You hit the jackpot with this trip! So many shows filmed there…love it! Might have to order Commander in Chief. The Rush Hour series are favs of mine.

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  1. […] It: Robert Reed’s former house is located at 980 Stoneridge Drive in Pasadena.  The Cravens Estate, from Commander in Chief and JAG, is located right around the corner at 430 Madeline Drive in Pasadena. Share and Enjoy: (click […]

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