Brand Park Honors a Real Estate Firebrand Who Put His Stamp on a Young Community in the Golden State
In this second of a series that puts a spotlight on historic or culturally significant homes across North America, The Plan Collection looks at the the Brand Library in Glendale, CA.
Often, individuals who leave their stamp or a lasting impression on an area are remembered by history, and their homes become part of the community’s identity. Such is the case with Leslie Brand.
Nestled comfortably at the base of the Verdugo Hills in Glendale, California, Brand LIbrary is a historic home that carries a major piece of Glendale history along with one of the oldest and richest stories in all of Southern California. Originally called Miradero, the estate once belonged to real estate developer Leslie Coombs Brand, who played an integral role in Glendale’s development and growth into one of the most productive and bustling cities in the Golden State, and later became Brand Park.
Shown above is the Brand Library as it is today. It started life as MIradero, a palatial estate that was the home of Leslie Brand and his family for approximately 40 years. It is one of the great landmarks of Glendale, and indeed the Golden State itself. Photo Credit: "Brand Library - Miradero" by Konrad Summers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Over the decades since Brand’s stamp on the area, the city of Glendale has expanded upon Brand’s grand home and Brand Park in order to offer a wider range of services to the public. Operating as an arts library, the compound also includes spaces for performances, lectures, public events, and community gatherings.
Today, the park grounds also house a Japanese tea garden, a restored Victorian home known as the Doctor’s House, and ample public space where residents frequently hold birthday parties, wedding receptions, and sporting events.
The Doctor's House was built in 1888 and is one of two remaining Queen Anne Victorian style homes left in Glendale. It was occupied by four notable area doctors in succession – thus its name – and by silent film star Nell Shipman in the early 1900s. Today, it serves as a museum and, with its large gazebo on the property, as a site for weddings and special events. Photo Credit: "Brand Library - Doctors House" by Konrad Summers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
For a Victorian flavor similar to that of the Doctor's House in a modern home plan, you wouldn't go far wrong with this charming 3-bedroom, 2-bath Victorian style home (House Plan #126-1248)
Brand and the Growth of Glendale
Glendale was first established as its own settlement in 1884, on land owned by the Verdugo family for nearly a century. Over the next 20 years the city would increase in both size and scope, eventually seeing the introduction of dozens of amenities and public services that enabled its swift incorporation in 1906.
All of this rapid and expansion traces back to the efforts of Brand, who literally transformed the area from ranching land into what would one day be known as The Jewel City. Born in Missouri, Brand was always fascinated with real estate, and began buying and selling property as a teenager. He moved to Los Angeles in the winter of 1886, founding Los Angeles Abstract Company the following year in order to sell real estate insurance.
Brand quickly took a liking to the Glendale area, immediately understanding the city’s potential, and used his considerable wealth and status to modernize the town at a fantastic pace. Over the span of a few short years, Brand would
• Found the First National Bank of Glendale
• Partner with railroad magnate Henry Huntington to introduce a streetcar system
• Establish the Home Telephone Company
• Create three separate utilities to provide modern services throughout the San Fernando Valley
• Open the Glendale Country Club.
But his greatest achievement would be the creation of his private estate, Miradero.
Miradero: An Amalgam of Architectural Influences
The origins of this historic homes spotlight begin In 1902, when Brand bought over 1,000 acres of land along Glendale’s northern border, which includes parcels in the Verdugo Mountains. It was atop these hills where Brand chose to build his grand home, which he dubbed Miradero, Spanish for “The Lookout.” The name reflects the stunning views of Glendale and the San Fernando Valley available from the estate, which Brand truly incorporated into the construction of the property from the very beginning.
This is the site of Miradeo in the early 1900s, with the Verdugo Mountains looming above the structure in the background. Built as a palatial Indian-flavored European style mansion, the home has commanding views of the San Fernando valley to this day.
Brand designed Miradero in conjunction with his brother-in-law, architect Nathaniel Dryden, who previously designed office and retail spaces in the burgeoning downtown Los Angeles area. Unlike other homes in the area, which rarely strayed far from the traditional California style house plans of Spanish and European recreations, Brand chose to design his home using a combination of themes and aesthetics inspired by a visit to the East Indian Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Brand even paid for Dryden’s assistant to travel to India in order to study the architecture of the region.
A modern version of Brand's Miradero might be the 3-bedroom, 3-bath European style home plan at top (House Plan #106-1154) or the 3-bedroom, 5-bath Spanish style home plan at bottom (House Plan #175-1248). Small modifications to the plans – like pointed arches and small spires – could introduce Indian flavored architectural styles displayed by the original mansion.
The estate would take on a distinctly Indian and Moorish style, most notably in the striking arched gateway that met visitors at the entryway into the grounds, which resembles the torana arches seen in various Southeast Asian buildings. The home itself would also see heavy Indian and Arabic influences, with several towers and parapets dotting the property.
All along the facade of the home, Brand and Dryden constructed several arched entryways that feature delicate curves reminiscent of Middle Eastern palaces. During the early days of Hollywood, the grounds would be frequently used as a filming location for silent films set in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.
Archways adorned with flourishes of curves and pointed motifs call to mind the Middle East. The home was used by Holllywood as exotic location shooting for silent films in the 1900s. Photo Credit: "Brand Library - Miradero" by Konrad Summers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Other areas around the main home did incorporate the Spanish architectural style common to Southern California, which carries a rich tradition of lingering influences from the early Spanish settlers. Much of this can be seen in the landscaping that covered the grounds, particularly in the many gardens and citrus orchards that filled the estate. However, despite the Eastern influences on the exterior of the building, Miradero held a distinctly European and American style on the interior.
Inside the Estate
True to form, Brand spared no expense on furnishing his grand home, which did not feature many of the same Spanish and Middle Eastern influences outside, focusing instead on more contemporary layouts and adornments.
Much of the furniture consisted of Victorian style pieces, which were very common during the period, complementing the rich wooden tones and lush curtains that covered the mansion’s numerous windows. Among the home’s many rooms were a grand dining area, a parlor for entertaining and a personal study for Brand himself.
Further out around the property, Miradero also had its own pool and clubhouse, which Brand frequently used while hosting one of his many famous parties. The grounds also included a private cemetery, designed to be the final resting place for Brand and his family.
Amidst all the splendor and fantastical elements of the estate, Brand’s true pride and joy was his private airspace, which would also play a key role in the further development of Glendale.
Brand and the Airfield
During the early 20th century, aviation was a new and novel concept slowly catching on across the country. Brand was entranced by the magical possibilities of flight and set out to not only earn his pilot's license but also build his own private hangar on his property to store his many early planes.
As his love of flying grew, Brand became frustrated with the inconvenience of finding proper space for taking off and landing his planes, so he expanded Miradero to include a private airstrip directly in front of the estate. The remnants of this strip are still visible today in the form of tall palm trees lining the street leading up to the grounds.
Brand’s fascination with flight culminated with his creation of the fly-in party, wherein he would invite wealthy friends from throughout the company to a party only accessible via aircraft. Brand would lock the front gates to his home, forcing any visitors to land their planes right on his property for a grand event. These legendary parties in turn captured the attention of the press and helped to further popularize the concept of private and commercial flight in the region.
Over time, local entrepreneurs would invest in the development of a dedicated airspace in Glendale, all of which culminated in the creation of Grand Central Airport in 1923, making it one of the first airports in Southern California.
The airfield, which later became known as Grand Central Air Terminal, would be the backdrop for countless moments in American aviation history, including
• Charles Lindbergh piloting the first transcontinental flight in the country
• Amelia Earhart purchasing her first plane
• And Laura Ingalls becoming the first woman to fly solo across the United States.
When Brand passed away in 1925, he left his home and estate to the city he helped build so that it could be turned into a public park and library, under the stipulation that his wife, Mary Louise Brand, be allowed to live on the grounds until her passing. Mrs. Brand died in 1945, and after a brief court battle where Brand’s relatives contested the will, the city won the rights to the land and opened Brand Park while it began plans to convert the home into a library.