Verdugo Views: Niece's memories of life at El Miradero

Austeene George Cooper Watkins, niece of Mary Louise Brand, grew up at El Miradero, the estate built by L.C. Brand, but little is known of her childhood years here in Glendale.

L.C. Brand was a powerful force in Glendale in the early 1900s. He brought the Pacific Electric line here and was involved in many aspects of city life. He left his estate to the city, for use as a library and park.

Watkins was born into the George family of Houston, Texas, before 1890 and was 11 when her mother died. Mary Louise Brand traveled to Houston to dispose of her sister's home and businesses, then returned to Los Angeles with her orphaned niece.

At the time, the Brands were still living at 607 Park View St., overlooking Westlake Park (now MacArthur Park). They soon began building their new home, El Miradero, in the hills above Glendale. It was finished in 1904, and just before they moved, Mary Louise Brand hosted a farewell dance for her niece.

A Feb. 26, 1904 Los Angeles Times society article noted that L.C. Brand's sister, Ada Stocker, was one of the many guests at the party.

Watkins was still a young girl when she moved to the new house. She recalled life at El Miradero in a Dec. 19, 1971, Los Angeles Herald Examiner clipping, provided by her granddaughter, Christy Hastings, of Arizona.

"Its architecture is unique and was patterned after the East Indian buildings constructed by that government for the Chicago World's Fair," Watkins said.

[Editor's Note: it was the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893].

The contractor and architect was Nathaniel Dryden, husband of L.C. Brand's sister, Helen.

Watkins described her uncle L.C. Brand in glowing terms.

"My uncle had already founded and was successfully managing the Title Guarantee and Trust Company. Having purchased a good portion of the present city of Glendale, he gave it lights, power and gas and prevailed upon a close friend, Henry Huntington, to bring the Big Red Cars of the Pacific Electric Railway to Glendale. The cars ran up the center of the 120-foot-wide boulevard (Brand). Uncle had previously donated the right of the way for the street."

Watkins recalled her life at El Miradero.

"Uncle Les was a doer. He was at the breakfast table at 5 in the morning and expected me to be at his side every school day. We had two National automobiles, but they were too unreliable to be depended upon for the daily run into Los Angeles, so we drove in a horse and buggy to the north end of Brand Boulevard and rode into town on the Big Red Cars. Uncle arrived at his office, and I transferred twice to get to Marlborough School, then at 23rd and Scarff streets in time for the 9 a.m. class."

L.C. Brand was involved in many areas of Glendale, including the first country club, constructed on Brand Boulevard. In December 1907, three years after their arrival here, the Los Angeles Times reported that Miss Austeene George would entertain with a large and elaborate dancing party at the Glendale Country Club.

"The rooms will be beautifully decorated with holly berries and Japanese lanterns will be hung in the tennis court. Assisting the charming young hostess will be her aunt, Mrs. Brand."

But despite the elaborate lifestyle, young Austeene was lonely, her granddaughter Christy Hastings said. More about Austeene George Cooper Watkins at a later date.

Katherine Yamada's column runs every other Friday. To contact her, call features editor Joyce Rudolph at (818) 637-3241. For more information on Glendale's history visit the Glendale Historical Society's web page:; call the reference desk at the Central Library at (818) 548-2027; or call (818) 548-2037 to make an appointment to visit the Special Collections Room at Central from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Readers Write: Louie Deisbeck recalled the flying club near Grand Central Air Terminal that was the subject of Verdugo Views, April 30, 2010. "When the demolition team began bulldozing the structure the floor collapsed and that¹s when they found all the gambling items. The tables were all folded up into the walls just as they would have been if there was a raid." That's when the demo company called the Glendale News-Press. John Millrany and photographers Sol Felix and Deisbeck went over and saw the gambling den and the tunnel leading into the Los Angeles River. "The demo company made a fortune on that job. They sold all that stuff to the studios. They gave us some of the 15 foot high pillars. I have two in my yard."

If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 221 N. Brand Blvd., Second Floor, Glendale, CA 91203-2609. Please include your name, address and phone number.

Credit: Lindy Wisdom and Christy Hastings

Caption: Austeene George Cooper Watkins, niece of Mary Louise Brand, was born in Texas. Orphaned at age 11, she lived with the Brands at El Miradero in Glendale. Photo, circa 1890

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