Glendale's artistic side

Galleries, bookstores, and theater energize this quiet L.A. suburb
Matthew Jaffe

You enter Glendale's Brand Park through a Moorish-style archway, then continue up a palm-lined drive to a pure white mansion with minarets and domes. City pioneer Leslie C. Brand completed this Saracen fantasy in 1904 and dubbed it El Miradero for its extensive views. The building comes as a surprise in a city not generally known for its exotic flourishes. But it's also a reminder that Glendale has long had a busy and varied cultural life.

The mansion now houses the Brand Library & Art Center (closed Sun-Mon; 1601 W. Mountain St.; 818/548-2051). The library's Victorian-style interior contrasts sharply with its exterior, while an adjacent modern gallery offers changing exhibits. For more art, stop by the downtown Roslin Art Gallery (closed Sun; 111 W. California Ave.; 818/241-0611), which specializes in contemporary Armenian artists; the city has the largest Armenian community outside the country.

Glendale also has a hefty literary pedigree. It was the setting for James M. Cain's gritty classic Mildred Pierce. Today three outstanding used bookstores are clustered along Brand Boulevard. One favorite is Brand Bookshop (231 N. Brand Blvd.; 818/507-5943), with a huge, thoughtful selection.

The 1940 streamline moderne marquee of the Alex Theatre (216 N. Brand; 818/243-2539) dominates its downtown surroundings. The auditorium hosts a family film series and ballet and orchestra performances.

Housed in a converted Masonic temple, classical theater company A Noise Within (closed Mon-Tue.; 234 S. Brand; 818/240-0910) regularly garners good reviews. Upcoming shows include Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (Mar 19-May 16).

Before or after a performance, unwind at a local restaurant. With inverted parasols suspended from the ceiling and a bar salvaged from a demolished Chinatown restaurant, Cinnabar (closed Mon; 933 S. Brand; 818/551-1155) is an evocative setting for French-Asian fusion dinners. And Damon's Steak House (closed Mon; 317 N. Brand; 818/507-1510) is a tiki wonderland of puffer fish and tropical murals.

WHERE: Glendale is 20 miles north of Los Angeles, off State 134 and I-5.

CONTACT: Glendale Chamber of Commerce, (818) 240-7870.