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!)
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!