A Christmas Story House

This holiday season, Best Buy featured the house from the 1983 classic A Christmas Story in one of it’s commercials.

I’ve never actually seen the entire movie from start to finish, but I’ve seen each scene (out of order, backwards and forwards) probably hundreds upon hundreds of times.  (Ours is one of those families that turns on TBS’s A Christmas Story marathon on Christmas Eve and doesn’t turn it off until every present is unwrapped and every treat eaten on Christmas Day.  It is the soundtrack to our entire holiday! And I’m happy to report that when it comes to A Christmas Story trivia,  I’m the reigning office champ!)

frontofhousemovieweb

Screen shot from the film. Image via A Christmas Story House 

So when I saw the commercial, I was intrigued by the preservation effort, to say the least.  I did a little Googling and discovered that the project is really quite interesting – and not a preservation effort at all.  And although the nugget of my heart that is devoted to A Christmas Story is delighted, the big huge preservationist chunks of my heart are cringing and appalled!

homepagehouse

The A Christmas Story House Museum. Image via A Christmas Story House 

The house used in the film is at 3159 W 11th Street in Cleveland, Ohio’s Tremont neighborhood.  It was chosen not only for its picturesque exterior, but also for its proximity to Higbee’s – the only department store scouts could find that would agree to be a part of the film.

shed4

Ralphie’s shed was in disrepair in 2004. Image via A Christmas Story House 

To become Ralphie Parker’s home, the circa 1895 house got a 1940s make over and new shed in the backyard. By 2004 when it was listed on eBay, the house had lost its wooden siding in the familiar yellow and green color scheme, its original one over one windows, and its porch railings to renovation.

ebay

Brian Jones stands on the front porch of the A Christmas Story House shortly after he purchased it on eBay. Image via A Christmas Story House. 

Brian Jones, the owner of The Red Rider Leg Lamp Company, which manufactures replicas of the leg lamp (a “major award”!) Ralphie’s father won in the film, bought the house in 2004.  He immediately set about restoring the house to its 1983 A Christmas Story glory by removing the blue gray vinyl siding, reinstalling one over one windows, etc.  and gutting the interior. Yes, he GUTTED THE INTERIOR!

gutted

The gutted interior during reconstruction. Image via A Christmas Story House 

It turns out that while the exterior scenes from the movie were filmed in Cleveland, the interior scenes were filmed in Toronto on a sound stage. The interior of Ralphie’s house is a fiction – it never really existed. Jones did not let this stop him.He painstakingly recreated the interior by reconfiguring the floor plan of the historic house at a cost of $240,000.  This is the point at which my preservationist heart dies a little – the authentic historic material from the 1895 house was removed and tossed into dumpsters and the fictional floor plan was built within the historic shell.

paker-family-christmas-stor

The Parker Family on the kitchen set in Toronto. Image via A Christmas Story House 

Now that I think about it, this fact is also disappointing to my A Christmas Story fandom – even if I visited the A Christmas Story House, Ralphie never actually walked down those stairs in his pink nightmare bunny suit and there was never a pack of dogs devouring an entire turkey in that kitchen. It’s all fake!  On the plus side, however, you can see some genuine A Christmas Story paraphernalia across the street in another house purchased by Jones to display the memorabilia. They have Randy’s snow suit and Ms. Shield’s blackboard among other things.

So what do ya’ll think about this? I love the effort to restore the exterior of the house to its 1940s persona created in the 1980s (how’s that for confusing?),  but I kinda hate the interior “restoration.”  Not only did they destroy much of the existing historic material, but the interior that replaced it is a fictional version of a stage set.  All that being said – if I’m ever in Cleveland you better believe I’ll be stopping by!

Advertisements

5 comments

  1. Gary Soderman

    Interesting post .. I hate to admit that I haven’t seen this movie, but I just watched a few Youtube clips .. I resonate with “you will shoot your eye out” .. My parents and grandparents used that, and I never did get my BB Gun 😦

    • bricksandmortarpreservation

      Oh no! You have to watch it sometime. It’s hilarious and filmed beautifully. And there is SO much detail in the set design – there are even grubby hand prints all around the light switches!

      And you should probably treat yourself to that BB gun!

  2. bricksandmortarpreservation

    That is true. It was gutted because previous additions and renovations had left the structure unstable and it was in danger of collapse. Whether or not there may have been a more preservation friendly alternative to gutting the building in order to install a steel framework is an interesting question. If the White House was in the same situation today, it may very well have been handled differently, due to engineering advances and changes in preservation thinking in the US since that time.

  3. Pingback: Holiday Posts from Bricks + Mortar | Bricks + Mortar

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s