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Brand Library from “Scorpion”

Aug 21st, 2017 | By | Category: TV Locations

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I am probably the only person you will ever hear say this, but I absolutely loved working as a background actor in Hollywood.  Sure, the hours were long and unpredictable and the work tedious and repetitive, but the opportunities I was afforded to be up-close-and-personal with the inner workings of movie and television production were unparalleled.  I reveled in observing everything from the rehearsal process to the stars’ make-up application to the Steadicam operators’ choreographed movements.  I also got to learn about and was granted access to some fabulous and unique locales, one of which was the Brand Library & Art Center in Glendale.  Though I lived in nearby Pasadena at the time, until I was hired as an extra for the movie Loaded in October 2006, I had never heard of the place, and was struck by its beauty and extraordinary architecture as soon as I arrived on set.  For the shoot, the library was transformed into a college campus and my job was to mill about the property’s entrance and sprawling front lawn for a couple of scenes.  While Loaded turned out to be an undeniable flop (even just scanning through it to make screen captures for this post was painful), Brand Library left an indelible impression on me.  So when I spotted it while watching new fave show Scorpion recently, I figured it was high time I blog about the site.

Brand Library was originally built as a private residence for Glendale developer Leslie Coombs Brand and his wife, Mary Louise, in 1904.

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Known as El Miradero (Spanish for “the lookout”), the property was designed by Brand’s brother-in-law Nathaniel Dryden.

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Modeled after the East Indian Pavilion from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (which you can see a photograph of here), Dryden employed Saracenic, Moorish and Indo-Islamic elements in his design.

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Constructed at a cost of $60,000 (and we’re talking 1904 money!), the lavish 13-room, 5,000-square-foot property boasted towering scalloped archways, intricate beveled glass windows, shaded loggias, a pool, a tennis court, orange groves, a miniature lake, ponds and fountains, kennels for the family’s dogs, an airstrip, a conservatory, a sprawling palm tree-lined drive (pictured below), and even a private clubhouse complete with a bar and pool tables that was open to the local elite.

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El Miradero was so opulent and palatial that locals began referring to it as “Brand’s Castle.”

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When Leslie passed away in 1925, he deeded the manse, as well as the 488 acres surrounding it, to the city of Glendale with the decree that it should be turned into a library and public park.  His one stipulation was that the city could not take over ownership of the property until his wife’s death.

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Mary Louise continued to live on the premises for the next 20 years, until eventually passing away in a car accident on October 13th, 1945 while on vacation in Arizona.  She was 74.  The city of Glendale subsequently began transforming the Brand estate into a library.  Not just any library, though.  El Miradero was instead turned into a specialty art library, housing a collection of over 110,000 LPs, DVDs, art prints, books, and CDs.  It opened to the public in 1956.  Sadly, during the transformation, much of the residence’s original interior design, which was Victorian in style, was covered over or removed in order to make the site more functional as a municipal space.

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A large gallery and 100-seat recital hall were added to the grounds in 1969, though they bear a much more modern look than El Miradero.  (You can see the gallery and recital hall spaces to the left in both of my photos below.)

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Thankfully, in 1998, a plan was approved to renovate the library and restore much of its original interior detailing.  The project did not get underway until 2012, though, at which time the site closed for 2 years and underwent $10-million worth of work.

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The results of the renovation are nothing short of spectacular.  Though the exterior of Brand Library is striking, the restored interior is absolutely jaw-dropping.  Visitors to the site now enter through the property’s former solarium, reportedly Leslie and Mary Louise’s favorite area of the home.  All of El Miradero’s rooms are centered around the bright space, which during the Brands’ tenure was decorated with dark wood, a myriad of foliage, a fountain, and bird cages.  You can see photographs of it from that time period here and here.

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Just off the solarium is the couple’s former dining room.  Painted in a rich blue, the space boasts a magnificent window seat with a carved wood frame.  You can check out images of the room in its original form here and here.

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El Miradero’s former library room is just as impressive, with an intricately painted ceiling and leaded glass windows.  Pictures of it during the Brands’ day can be seen here and here.

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From the library room, visitors step into what was originally the home’s reception hall, a grand space boasting a stone, brick and wood fireplace.  You can check out photos of what it formerly looked like here and here.

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Off the reception hall sits the Brands’ drawing room, which is decorated in soft blue tones and features a hand-painted ceiling.  You can view an image of the room in its original state here.

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As you can see in comparing the historic photos to my recent images, the restorers did an amazing job of bringing the property back to its original splendor.  It honestly looks as if no time has passed since the Brands lived on the premises!

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El Miradero’s impressive and unique architecture lends itself quite well to the screen.

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In the Season 2 episode of Scorpion titled “Sun of a Gun,” the library played the role of President Desta Rahal’s (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) home in Bahari, North Africa.

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Only the exterior of the building was used in the shoot.  The interior of Desta’s palace was a mash-up of two different spots – a studio-built set . . .

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. . . and the Moroccan Room at The Hollywood Athletic Club in Hollywood.

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Scorpion is hardly the first production to feature the library.  In fact, during the days that Brand lived on the premises, he rented the home out to film companies regularly, figuring the publicity generated by doing so was good for Glendale, the city he was in the process of developing.  As such, El Miradero appeared in numerous silent movies including 1915’s Under the Crescent, 1920’s An Arabian Knight, 1925’s Webs of Steel, and 1919’s The Man Beneath (pictured below).

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The site’s popularity as a filming locale only increased after it was turned into a library.  In the Season 4 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Thunderbird Connection,” which aired in 1976, the property masked as Price Hassad’s (Barry Miller) Burdabi palace.

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Brand Library portrayed the Love Truth Temple, aka the headquarters of the cult that Page Connally (Heather Locklear) belonged to, in the Season 2 episode of The Fall Guy titled “Just a Small Circle of Friends,” which aired in 1983.

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At the beginning of the 1988 comedy The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, the library masqueraded as the Beirut palace where terrorists plotted to take down the U.S.

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As I mentioned earlier, Brand Library was transformed into a college campus for Loaded.  It popped up twice in the 2008 movie – first in the scene in which pre-law student Tristan Price (Jesse Metcalfe) and his friends hang out between class.

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It then was featured in the scene in which drug dealer Sebastian (Corey Large) tries to befriend Tristan’s girlfriend, Brooke (Monica Keena).

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I was an extra in both scenes, though you can only see me in the latter.  There I am denoted with a yellow arrow in the screen cap below.

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Brand Library also appeared in The Other Side of Midnight, but I could not find a copy of the 1977 flick anywhere to make screen captures for this post.

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From what I have read online, the site also popped up in episodes of The X-Files, Alias, and Mission: Impossible, though I am unsure of which episodes specifically.  If anyone happens to know, please fill me in.

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For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: Brand Library & Art Center, from the “Sun of a Gun” episode of Scorpion, is located at 1601 West Mountain Street in Glendale.  The site is open to the public, but closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly.

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2 comments

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  1. Natalie says:

    Oh, how I miss that long curly hair!!! :)


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