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Touring Glendale's Refreshed and Beautiful 1904 Brand Library

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After a two-year closure, one of Glendale's loveliest assets, the Brand Library & Art Center, is now ready to begin a new chapter. Located in the Verdugo foothills, the library is housed in a 1904 mansion that was once the home of early Glendale developer Leslie C. Brand and his wife Mary Louise. Dubbed El Miradero, the residence was designed by Leslie Brand's brother-in-law Nathaniel Dryden with a late-Victorian interior and an Indo-Saracenic exterior modeled after the East Indian Pavillion at the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago, which Mr. and Mrs. Brand had attended. The wealthy couple hosted many grand affairs at El Miradero, including 1921's legendary fly-in party, during which the estate's gates were locked and the only way to gain access was to land a private plane on the property's landing strip. Brand, who died in 1925, bequeathed El Miradero to the city, his will stipulating that the property be used exclusively for a public park and library. Following Mary Louise's death in 1945, the residence was converted into a library. It opened in 1956, with an adjacent gallery and 140-seat recital hall added in 1969.

Glendale's City Council approved plans for a restoration of the century-old house and further expansion of the facilities back in 1998, but they were scaled down significantly by subsequent budget crises. Work on the project finally began in 2012, with architecture firm Gruen Associates overseeing the $9.5-million project in partnership with Offenhauser/Mekeel Architects. Updates include seismic bracing, a reconfigured entrance, a new roof, new HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems, and enhancements to make the site compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Preservation specialists Spectra also played a major role in the rehab, uncovering, restoring, and reproducing original interior aspects that had been lost over time, including ceiling stencils, wall colors, windows, doors, and the home's main fireplace. Fragments of El Miradero's original ceiling murals that had been hidden behind asbestos for decades have been mounted for display in the library's solarium, while a small section of its unreinforced masonry walls can be seen framed between two newly reintroduced windows in one of the reading lounges.

Updates to the Brand's commodious art annex include new gallery walls, a new kitchen suitable for catering large events such as weddings or openings, and a new plaza for outdoor concert/dance performances. Currently on exhibit through May 5 is "Turmoil and Tranquility," featuring works from artists Jill Knox, Gilda Davidian, Razmik Samvelts, Natasha June, and Jon Rajkovich; a schedule of upcoming exhibits, performances, lectures, and screenings can be found here.

· Brand Library & Art Center [Official Site]