California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Glendale, the City of Perpetual Harvest

California Fool's Gold
Glendale, seen from Griffith Park

This entry is about the Los Angeles County community of Glendale.

A few days ago, accompanied by frequent traveling companion “Steve Shimbles...” the CARDIS transported us to The City of Perpetual Harvest.

A former used car lot where my ex-roomie David Galvez sold a car became the site of Cerritos Park


Most of Glendale is located in the foothills of the Verdugos but there are neighborhoods in the Verdugos, Crescenta Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Rafael Hills, and San Gabriel Mountains. To the northwest is Tujunga; to the northeast are La Crescenta, Montrose, and La Cañada Flintridge; to the east is Pasadena; to the southeast is Eagle Rock; on the southwestern edge are Glassell Park and Atwater Village; and Burbank lies to the west.


Before the arrival and conquest of the land by the Spaniards, the area was home to the Tongva. After the aboriginals were removed, José María Verdugo established a ranch there. His grandson built the Catalina Verdugo Adobe, the oldest home in the city. In 1784, Corporal Verdugo was given permission from governor Pedro Fages to settle and graze this land. A community began to grow in what’s now the neighborhood of Verdugo Viejo, still home to the Casa Adobe de San Rafael, which was the final home of the Verdugo family, built in 1865 by Tomas Sanchez and abandoned in 1875.


After the area passed from the Spaniards to the Mexicans in 1822, it was taken over by the US in 1847. It was in the Verdugo Adobe that the Mexicans made their surrender to the US official. The newly American town was originally named Riverdale. It wasn’t until 1884 that the name Glendale was chosen and its incorporation followed in 1906. In 1910, it was given the nickname, “The Jewel City,” by Edward V. Emery. In 1918, the city expanded when it annexed Tropico, a community that had existed on the southwestern edge (as well as a game my sister is obsessed with).


In the 1920s, a large number of Armenians moved to Glendale, followed by another surge in the 1970s and again, in the wake of the USSR‘s dissolution. Today Glendale has the highest percentage of Armenian residents of any city in the US and the second-largest population in numbers after Los Angeles (home of Little Armenia). But to suggest that Glendale is simply Armenian in character is wrong. Many of the city’s white residents are also Arab or Persian and almost a fifth of Glendale is Asian — mostly Korean and Filipino. The established Latino population remains significant as well, especially in the southern part of town. Today Glendale is 54% white, 20% non-white Latino, and 16% Asian. The main ethnicities are Armenian and Mexican but the largest group of foreign-born Glendalians are from Iran.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography‘s map of Glendale, available on merchandise and art prints

Being the third-most populous city in Los Angeles County (after Los Angeles and Long Beach), it’s difficult to make blanket generalizations that apply to all of the city. It’s home to many varied neighborhoods including Adams Hill (home to Adams Square), Brockmont, Chevy Chase Canyon, Citrus Grove, City Center, College Hills, Crescenta Highlands, El Miradero (home to “the Village”), Emerald Isle, Fremont Park, Glenoaks Canyon, Glenwood (Cumberland Heights), Grand Central, Grandview, Greenbriar (formerly Dead Horse Canyon), Mariposa (home of Maple Park), Montecito Park, Montrose/Verdugo City, Moorpark (formerly Moore Park), Oakmont (home of Oakmont Woods), Pacific-Edison (formerly Riverdale), Pelaconi, Rancho San Rafael, Riverside Rancho, Rossmoyne, Somerset (formerly Thornycroft), Spar Heights, Tropico, Verdugo Viejo, Verdugo Woodlands (aka “The Woodlands”), Vineyard, Whitting Woods and Woodbury.


Downtown Glendale has always held a strange appeal for me. When I pressured my brother to move out of Pendsersleigh, I was hoping for Glendale because I love to visit. I was deeply disappointed when he ended up instead choosing the Sunset Heights area of Echo Park. I still think it would be cool to have a penthouse apartment in one of the city’s skyscrapers… I think one of my favorite things about downtown Glendale is its simulacra feel… like a Disneyland version of a downtown with an unapologetic appreciation of chain stores. The City Center includes a CPK and an Olive Garden. The Glendale Marketplace is a cozy alley where, instead of mom-and-pop stores, one finds PacSun, Starbucks, Panda Express, Outback Steakhouse, and the like. The true town center is Americana at Brand... essentially a mall that one can both shop at and live in (pitched as a “lifestyle center”). It is a downtown without homeless patrolled by security guards who attempt to stop people from taking pictures. The Christmas after it opened, Peabo Bryson treated ceremony attendees with a rendition of “A Whole New World,” from the score for Disney’s Aladdin.

Brand Boulevard of Cars


There is more to Glendale than malls and bungalows and the city is home to several buildings of note for their architecture and/or history.

In addition to the aforementioned adobes, there’s The Doctors House, built around 1888. It’s a Queen Anne-style home so-named because it was resided in by a series of medicos back in the olden days.

Ard Eevin was built in 1903 for Dan Campbell, a civic leader and business partner of one of Glendale’s key figures, Leslie Coombs Brand.

The following year, Brand built El Madero, a large mansion, the architecture of which incorporates a hodgepodge of styles. His home, also known as the Brand Castle, was modeled after the Indian Pavillion at the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago. Today it’s the Brand Library.

In 1928, Frederick Willard Potter sculpted The Green Cross, which still stands on the premises. Glendale’s Green legacy is strong. It’s a Tree City, USA and much of the fairly green character of the city is owed to Glendale’s Tree Advisory Board.

The Glendale Higashi-Osaka Teahouse & Friendship Garden was added to Brand Park in 1974, built through the combined efforts of sister cities Glendale and Higashi-Osaka.

Grand Central Airport

Brand later built a private land strip that eventually developed into the now-defunct Grand Central Airport, which opened in 1923 and was then the city’s largest employer. The film Air Hostess was filmed there. It was closed in 1959 but the main terminal tower remains.

The James Daniel Derby House

The James Daniel Derby House was built in Chevy Chase Canyon in 1926 by architect Lloyd Wright.

Glendale Masonic Lodge No. 368

One of my favorite buildings is the Glendale Masonic Lodge No. 368, built in 1928 and designed by Arthur G. Lindley. Inside was the Temple Theatre, once a grand place to see movies but by the ’50s it had reportedly become rather seedy. Since the 1980s the theater has been home to the theater group A Noise Within.

The Rodriguez House

Rudolph Michael Schindler built The Rodriguez House in 1941 for writer/composer Jose Rodriguez.

Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church (source unknown)

More recently the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church was built on Mountain Street and is one of the few newly-built churches that doesn’t seem to aspire toward ungodly hideousness.

In 1925, the Alexander opened, designed by Meyer & Holler. An addition was added in 1939, designed by Arthur G. Lindley and Charles R. Selkirk. At that point, it became known as The Alex Theatre. Resident companies include the Alex Film Society, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Glendale Youth Orchestra, North Hollywood‘s Musical Theatre Guild, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

The Faith Center’s Fountain/Torch Combo Pack
A sweet Mustang in the City Center and Merril W. Baird’s beautiful, brutalist Glendale Municipal Services Building (1966)


Largely regardless of ethnicity or country of origin, there is a detectable Glendale vibe that’s highly different from the adjacent communities of the San Gabriel Valley, Northeast Los Angeles, and Mideast Los Angeles. There’s an ostentatiousness — a higher-than-normal amount of adwear, women’s sweatpants with messages transcribed across the buttocks, and perfume/cologne that announces the wearer’s approach before visual contact is made. With most of the city’s white population having origins along the Eurasian Tracksuit Trail, it shouldn’t be surprising that money is spent on luxury cars, gaudy objects from Versailles Gallery, and lion statues for the front yard. However, the prevailing aesthetic of Glendale, despite being decidedly outré, is vastly preferable to the look which one finds increasingly in Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park. After several hours in Glendale, I only saw one eyeball-scarring hipster rocking a handlebar mustache, stupid hat, and little girl’s sunglasses.


As already pointed out, Glendale is host to many chains, including restaurants. In 1953, Burt Baskin and Irvine Robbins merged their ice cream parlors into one to form Baskin-Robbins, now the largest ice cream chain in the universe. However, the predominant smell in the air is not of ice cream (hardly known for its strong odor), rather, it is of beef and onions. Burgers, kebabs, and pizza are all well-represented in Glendale. However, some of the most highly regarded are Porto’s, Eat-Well, The Toasted Bun, Habit, Raffi’s, Cafe Bravo, Polka, Gaucho’s Village, Elena’s, Mambo’s, Max’s of Manila, Woodlands Cafe, Favorite Place, Sushi Nishi-ya, Fish King, Schreiner’s, Marios, India’s Flavor, Sarkis, Carousel, Far Niente, Bashan, Shiraz,  La Cabañita, Billy’s, El Sauz, Fresco, Adana, Foxy’s, Honeybaked Ham, Mini Kabob, Gold Star, Skaf’s, Hungry Howies, Sayat Nova and too many more to name.


Skaters make their way around the Moonlight Rollerway during LBGT skate night on Nov. 11. (Roger Wilson/News-Press)

Although Glendale’s streets are pretty quiet at night, there are a lot of nightlife options, including Moonlight Rollerway Skating, Blue Moon, Big Fish, Tony’s (which has a night called Naco Electrico — requires further investigation), Coco Bango, Dave’s, Palate, Sidebar, 1300, Tavern on Brand, 818, Left Coast, Shooter’s, Capri Jimmi Maddin’s, LaBrie’s, Hookah, Jax and others.


There’s more to Glendale than hanging out at In-And-Out, with offerings at the Civic Auditorium, Modern Times Art Deco Show, the aforementioned A Noise Within Theatre, Glendale Centre Theatre, Glendale Symphony OrchestraCruise Night, Oktoberfest, Days of the Verdugos Fiestecitas, and Dreaming of Roses.


Glendale is the birthplace of several musicians of note including Captain Beefheart, Elvin Bishop, Armen Chakmakian, Allison Iraheta, John C. Debney, Scott Gorham, Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn, W.A.S.P’s Chris Holmes, Ed King, and The Offspring’s Greg Kriesel and Sam Phillips. The city was celebrated by Beck in his song “Debra” on Midnite Vultures.

Although Amoeba has both Armenian music (filed in the Middle Eastern section) and DVDs (filed in the European section), Chaterian World Music, in Citrus Grove, has many, many more as well as Arabic, English, French, Greek, Italian, and Persian movies and music.


Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, which opened in 1917, is the permanent resting place of many celebrities.

The city was also the birthplace of Clara Bryant, Douglas Donald “Doug” Davidson, Nicole Eggert, Erika Eleniak, Robert Englund, Edward Furlong, Pamela Hensley, Julia Ann, Nathan Kress, Jonna Lee, Tim Matheson, Taylor Negron, Ken Osmond, Kelly Packard, Paul Peterson, Debra Jo Rupp, Ron Underwood, and Paul Walker.

Several movies have been filmed (in part or in whole) in Glendale including Double Indemnity, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Good Girl, Trees Lounge, Rock Star, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Trouble with Angels, Big Fat Liar and Vacation.

The Glendale Transportation Center, featured in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
The Glendale Galleria was featured in Big Man on Campus

Seeley’s Furniture Warehouse was the site of the anchor room in Anchor Man. A Glendale convenience store was used Superbad. Brand Park was featured in Another Gay Movie. Other gay-themed movies shot in Glendale include Back Soon, Amy’s Orgasm, and Alpha Dog.

In addition, Walt Disney Imagineering, Dreamworks SKG, and ABC 7 all have headquarters in Grand Central.

Support Eric Brightwell on Patreon

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson Collegeand the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubithe StoryGraphand Twitter.

43 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Glendale, the City of Perpetual Harvest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s