Dexter Filming Locations: The Smiley Face Palm Tree


The location: The Smiley Face on the Palm Tree.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. A former trash dump which is now a street lined with condos.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Somewhere in Miami.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In Episode 4 - "Let's Give the Boy a Hand".

    After a severed hand is found at the beach, and then a severed foot, both from the same man, it becomes clear that the "Ice Truck Killer" is keeping his victim alive (at the former Angel of Mercy hospital, it turns out) while he performs the amputations.

    Each body part has been left in a location inspired by childhood photos in Dexter's photo album, recreating moments in Dexter's childhood.

    So, Dexter goes through his old photos, trying to anticipate the killer's next move.

    He finds a photo of himself as a child, standing next to a palm tree, on which is carved a "smiley face", in front of a trash dump. (He comments that he used to love to watch the bulldozers smashing the garbage down out of sight.)

    Dexter heads out to that location, only to discover that the trash dump is now gone, and has been replaced by a residential neighborhood lined with condos and palm trees.

    The palm tree with the smiley face is now on a grassy center divider in the middle of a residential street, with a church visible down the block.

    Dexter half expects to find another body part - and he soon spots something partially concealed in the tropical plants of another center divider.

    But when he gets close enough, the "body" stirs, and it turns out to be nothing more than a homeless man trying to get some rest.

    Dexter tells him to go back to sleep, then gets a phone call, telling him to report to the pumpkin patch, where another part of the puzzle has been found.

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. A residential street - but not in Miami.

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. They actually shot this scene on S. Occidental Blvd. (between 6th & 3rd Streets), in Los Angeles.

    Occidental Blvd is a diagonal (NE/SW) street, located just two blocks north of Wilshire Blvd, a few miles west of downtown L.A. (above Lafayette Park).

    In the scenes where you see Dexter standing in the center divider, with the church behind him, you are looking southwest down S. Occidental Blvd.

    The gothic church seen in the background is The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, at 540 S. Commonwealth Avenue (at the NW corner of Commonwealth & W. Sixth Street).

    The tall glass tower glimpsed briefly behind (and above) the church is the Superior Court building (AKA the Central Civil West Courthouse) at 600 South Commonwealth Avenue.

    The camera then pans to the left, showing the condos on the east/southeast side of Occidental Blvd. The main ones you see are the Churchill Apartments, at 444 S. Occidental Blvd.

    And when Dexter walks towards the sleeping hobo, he is walking northeast.

    They no doubt chose this street because all of those tall palm trees give it a Miami look. But I suspect that they may have added a bit more foliage to the center divider where the bum is sleeping.

    Here is an aerial photo of the park. And here is a map link.

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. This one was serendipity.

    The best clue in the scene was the distinctive church visible behind Dexter. Even though I wasn't sure whether they had shot the scene in L.A. or Miami, that church looked somewhat familiar.

    But I found it almost by accident, when I was actually looking for another location from "Dexter": the interior of the Miami church which is seen later in the same episode. I was scanning through Google images of churches, using keywords such as "gothic" and "church" and "Miami".

    After failing to find the interior in Miami, I thought it might be in L.A., so I changed one keyword to "Los Angeles", and it pulled up one page of historic L.A. buildings.  And what should I see there, but a church that looked very similar to the church in the "smiley face" scene.

    So I used Live Local aerial photos to take a look a the street. I matched up the condos, and the palm trees, and the center dividers.  But the clincher was the tall glass tower which is visible for a moment right behind the church. Looking south via Live Local, there it was: the Superior Court building.

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