In ‘National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,’ a Historic Altadena Greene and Greene Plays the Delta Iota Kappa Frat House

Though not a hit critically (“parade of scatological jokes” aside), “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” was a box office success and remains a popular watch today, 18 years after its release. So it is a bit of a surprise that the gross-out comedy (streaming now on Amazon Prime) is an untapped landscape as far as its filming locations are concerned. Go ahead and Google the flick – you won’t find its locales well-documented anywhere! So I was thrilled to come across a comment on a column about Pasadena’s famous Gamble House which mentioned that another Charles and Henry Greene-designed property in the area known as the Swan House was featured extensively in the 2002 film. I had never heard of the residence before, but one look at interior images, and I recognized it as the Delta Iota Kappa fraternity house, where Richard Bagg (Daniel Cosgrove) lived.

Completed in 1899, the Swan House was commissioned by wealthy Chicagoan James Swan and his wife, Frances. The dwelling, located at 2162 North Holliston in Altadena, is one of the earliest examples of the Greene brothers’ work on the West Coast! 

Originally designed in a Georgian style with Victorian detailing, the property is markedly different from the Craftsman bungalows the Greenes are most famous for proliferating. According to the Altadena Blog, the home, initially named “Torrington Place,”  was “the first commission the Greene brothers received that was not for a family member, and they had to cater to the whims of their client.” The Star-News understatedly refers to the place, which you can see an early photo of here, as a “fine two-story and attic home.” During her tenure there, Frances transformed the attic into a recreation and music room, where she regularly hosted society and charity events.

In what seems to be a somewhat common occurrence with historic residences that have appeared onscreen, the Swan House was originally located in a different spot entirely! The manse initially stood about four miles southeast, on the corner of East Colorado Boulevard and Oakland Avenue in Pasadena. When the city elected to extend Oakland Avenue to the north in 1925, thereby disrupting the Swans’ land, the residence was  “sawed in half and gently but firmly moved to a new location and reestablished,” per a February 1949 “Pasadena Star-News” article.

Henry Greene supervised the relocation project, as well as the home’s subsequent redesign, which included removal of the attic, a roof change, and fashioning the façade with stucco, thereby completely changing its look from Georgian to Mediterranean. Amazingly, the interior was left largely intact throughout the process. According to the Altadena Historical Society, aside from the kitchen, the inside of the 7-bedroom, 8-bath, 6,735-square-foot home is in “near original condition.”

To find out more Dirt on the Swan House, click on the Gallery link above.

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