If you’ve ever seen The Naked Gun, which I had the delight of re-watching this weekend, you might recognize El Miradiro as the terrorist headquarters (set in Beirut) from the opening scene. Before serving as a backdrop in the crass comedy, as well as a handful of other earlier films, the Indo-Saracen style structure served as the private residence of real estate tycoon, Leslie C. Brand.
Mr. Brand had quite an eccentric history filled with lavish parties, aviation, lawsuits, and even a secret family as a result of an affair. Born in Missouri in 1859, he found early success in real estate and title processing. After the tragic loss of his first wife, he came to California in 1887 and soon after established the Title Insurance and Trust Co. With his amassed wealth, Brand purchased a huge parcel of land upon which he planned to expand the tiny community of Glendale. Although he is not directly responsible for creating the city, he is largely credited with building it from the ground up. He single-handedly opened the First National Bank of Glendale, a telephone company, the Miradero water company, a power and light company, and several subdivisions. Partnering with Henry Huntington, he connected the Pacific Electric railway from a Downtown station to Glendale. He named a large boulevard after himself, and built a Masonic Temple as well as the first Glendale country club. One of his finest accomplishments, however, was his very own home.
In 1902, Brand commissioned his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Dryden, to build a house that sat at the top of the Verdugo Hills. Brand wanted it styled in the same fashion as an Eastern Indian pavilion which he saw at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. After a sponsored trip to India, Dryden and an assistant finished construction of the exotic home in 1904. Guarded by a plaster fence and an elaborate Middle Eastern style gate, the estate was complete with orchards, a pool, a tennis court, kennels for his 3 dogs, a clubhouse, and a personal cemetery. Named “El Miradero,” translated as “vantage point” by Brand, local citizens deemed it “Brand’s Castle.”
At the age of 66, the well-accomplished Brand was diagnosed with cancer. A year later, in 1925, he deeded 800 acres of Miradero to the city of Glendale from his deathbed. He also willed Miradero and the surrounding 50 acres to the city upon the death of his wife, Mary Louise, under the condition that it be used exclusively for a public park and library to be called “Brand Park and Library.” He also insisted that the city should maintain it in the same condition as the best parks in Southern California.
Mrs. Brand perished in a car crash in 1945, and soon following distant relatives of Brand sued to get the estate back. The same year, the courts ruled in favor of Glendale. After some construction work and rehabilitation, the city opened the Brand Library and Art Center in February 1956 and it has remained open for public use ever since.
1601 West Mountain Street
Glendale, CA 91201
Open Tuesday – Saturday