The Alhambra from “NCIS”May 26th, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: TV Locations
Sometimes you go years wondering about a location only to find out that it is right in your own backyard. For what seemed like ages, I had wanted to track down the United States Criminal Investigative Service office from NCIS. I had a feeling that the series used two different structures – one for establishing shots and one for on location exterior filming – and it turns out I was right. While watching a scene that took place outside of NCIS headquarters in the Season 11 episode titled “Crescent City (Part I),” I immediately recognized one of the visible buildings as being part of The Alhambra, a large commercial office and retail complex in Alhambra that I had visited often when I lived in L.A. That led to me eventually finding the structure used in establishing shots, as well. But more on that later.
The Alhambra complex was built for C F Braun & Co., a petrochemical engineering company originally founded by Carl Franklin Braun in San Francisco in 1909. After World War I, Braun, seeking to expand the business, decided to relocate the main offices to Southern California where real estate was more affordable. He purchased a 45-acre plot of land at the corner of West Mission Road and South Fremont Avenue in Alhambra and proceeded to build a large office complex there. The beautiful site, which looks more like a college campus than a company headquarters, was completed in 1922.
Braun passed away in 1954, but the company continued to function throughout 1980, at which time it was acquired by Santa Fe International. The business then went through a succession of different owners and its Alhambra headquarters was eventually sold to The Ratkovich Company in 1999. The development firm set about revitalizing the site by adding retail shops, a massive gym and a housing development. The new complex was dubbed “The Alhambra.”
My mom used to teach in the Alhambra area and attended several conferences at The Alhambra. For reasons I no longer remember, I dropped her off at many of those conferences. On my first visit, upon driving into the complex, I became mesmerized by its beauty and wound up wandering around a bit.
Though I fell in love with many aspects of the complex, my favorite feature is easily the walking bridge that links it to a shopping center located across the street. In that shopping center? A Starbucks! So yes, I’ve utilized that walking bridge many a time .
I figured filming had to have taken place at The Alhambra at some point, but, at the time, could not seem to find any information about its cinematic history online. Then one day, while watching an early episode of House, I spotted it standing in for the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH) and made a mental note to re-visit the complex so that I could stalk it properly. I never got around to it, though. Then when I saw it pop up on NCIS last year, The Alhambra moved right to the top of my To-Stalk List.
In the beginning of the “Crescent City (Part I)” episode of NCIS, Eleanor Bishop (Emily Wickersham) is shown trying to make a repair to her car outside of what is supposed to be the United States Criminal Investigative Service office in Washington, D.C.
While watching, I immediately recognized the brick exterior and unique roofline of The Alhambra’s A9 East building.
The area where the scene was shot is denoted with a pink “X” in the aerial view below.
A far-off view of that same area is pictured in the photograph below.
Later in the episode, Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula) and T.C. Fornell (Joe Spano) are shown walking through what is supposedly the Washington Navy Yard. In reality, the men were strolling along the eastern side of The Alhambra’s Building A10. (My photograph was taken a bit too far north and does not perfectly match the scene, but the building pictured in my photo is visible in the far background of the screen capture below.)
The area and direction in which the men walked is denoted with a pink arrow below.
The trio eventually winds up in the courtyard of The Alhambra’s Building A9 East.
That courtyard is denoted with a pink “X” in the aerial view below.
The Alhambra has appeared in several other episodes of NCIS, including Season 9’s “Till Death Do Us Part.”
Once I discovered NCIS’ use of The Alhambra for on location exterior filming of scenes taking place at the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service office, I decided to attempt to track down the building used for establishing shots. It turned out to be a rather easy hunt. The real life headquarters of NCIS in Washington, D.C., aka the the CNIC (Commander, Navy Installations Command) office, is used for those shots. That building is located at 716 Sicard Street SE at the Washington Navy Yard. You can see a photo of it here.
As I mentioned above, The Alhambra also regularly masked as the exterior of the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital on the television series House. The stills below are from the Season 2 episode titled “Daddy’s Boy.”
The Alhambra also appeared in the Season 3 episode titled “Son of a Coma Guy.”
As well as in Season 3’s “Needle in a Haystack.” For that episode, the grounds of The Alhambra were covered in snow.
Well, a portion of the grounds, at least. As you can see in the screen capture below, the production team failed to put snow on the far end of the street leading into The Alhambra, making the flurry appear to be a bit fake. Whoops!
The television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer also made extensive use of The Alhambra. Though UCLA was initially utilized to masquerade as the University of California, Sunnydale on the show, when filming on a operating campus proved to be too difficult, production moved to The Alhambra to shoot exterior college scenes.
The Alhambra also masked as a mental institution in the Season 5 episode of Sliders titled “Map of the Mind.” And yes, that’s a CGI-generated vortex pictured in the second screen capture below.
The Alhambra was also featured in episodes of The Profiler, Scandal, and Arli$$, though I am unsure of which episodes specifically.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Alhambra, aka the exterior of the United States Criminal Investigative Service office from NCIS, is located at 1000 South Fremont Avenue in Alhambra. You can visit the property’s official website here.