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Sitcom Houses

by Ben Glenn II

Universal Studios (California): The Munsters, the Cleavers, and more Universal Studios boasts what is today the largest backlot in Hollywood. It consists of hundreds of outdoor sets, and Universal's famous backlot tour (and now theme park), attracts an astonishing 35,000 visitors each day. The tour was begun in 1964, and at that time visitors could view moviemaking in action and visit the sets of Universal's popular TV series produced by its television production company, Revue.

The heart of Universal's TV Land is Colonial Street, situated on the Upper Lot at Universal City. Here can be found the house facades used on Leave It To Beaver, The Munsters, and the TV series adaptations of Harper Valley PTA, and Animal House. Colonial Street's mix of homes and other buildings is an intentional mishmash, giving the studio a wide range of architectural styles to draw upon.

The Munster house has a particularly interesting history. It was probably constructed in the early as a pleasant Victorian home. Originally, the right side of the house was surmounted by a hexagonal, flat-topped turret, rather than the pointed tower that stands today. (In fact, the hexagonal turret can be seen in the color pilot of The Munsters.) When the house was featured in the 1962 film, The Second Time Around, the hexagonal turret was burned as part of the storyline; concurrently, the house must have been selected for The Munsters and then rebuilt with the eerie tower portion that TVparty-ers know well.

When The Munsters entered pre-production, Universal spent a reported $1 million to transform the nostalgic Victorian facade into a creepy mansion. Features such as a dilapidated stovepipe and weathervane were installed on the roof, and the home's grounds were "dressed" with groupings of arthritic prop trees (real trees that had been "embalmed" for repeated use), hanging moss, tumbleweeds, dead bushes, and strewn leaves. Finally, an imposing stone gate was added, and the finished set was photographed with a wide-angle lens, often from slightly below or above, making it appear massive.

Despite this expense, the majority of scenes were filmed indoors: "We used the house very little," recalled Al Lewis in a recent interview. Universal featured the Munster house on its early studio tours, often allowing children to visit the set and have their photos taken with the cast. When The Munsters finished production in 1966, Universal continued to use the house. In keeping with studio practice, the structure was "undressed" -- stripped of its gate, landscaping, and architectural adornments -- and by the late 1970s was painted a cheery yellow and featured in the short-lived NBC series Shirley starring Shirley Jones.

Universal later attempted to convert the house into a Cape Cod-style home for use on Murder, She Wrote by removing the center window peak and the gothic-arched porch, replacing it with a homey, wraparound veranda. The house stands as such today, although it has been painted a weatherworn gray to remind visitors of its spooky past.

Not far from the Munster house on Colonial Street is the Cleaver home from Leave It To Beaver. Actually, the Cleavers had two houses, both of which are here. The more famous of the two, a stone and wood rambler, remained intact and in use throughout the 1980s, and was restored somewhat for the short-lived revival series, The New Leave It To Beaver.

By the mid-1990s, however, the original facade had fallen into such disrepair that a replica had to be built for the 1997 film version of the series. This replica is located on Colonial Street, too, but appears to be a scaled-down version of the gracious original. The genuine Cleaver rambler can be seen - in color - as it appeared during the making of Leave It To Beaver in the 1956 Universal film Never Say Goodbye starring Rock Hudson (shown regularly on AMC).

PART THREE: The Warner Bros.
(formerly Columbia) Ranch - A Goldmine!

PART 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 /


TVparty / classic TV


"I just found this site and immediately was reminded of my early years in Southern California and the extensive time I spent watching television in the late 50's and on."

"One of your sections "Honey, I'm Home" brought back many memories but what especially caught my attention was the write up regarding the Addams Family House. The house used for some of the exteriors (the front door opening shot) and as well as being the base for the drawing at the opening credits was located at 21 Chester Place. It was originally owned by Estelle Doheny and her husband E.L. Doheny (of Teapot Dome fame)."

"My grandparents (Paul and Helen Grafe) rented the house from 1935 to about 1969 when it was torn down for a parking lot."

"In addition, the house was used for some interior shots in Seven Days in May."

- Joe Nesbitt

"In the late 1970's, "Mork & Mindy" was a fairly popular show, as you well know. It launched the careers of Robin Williams and his co-star Pam Dauber. Miss Dauber played "Mindy", a college student at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"Many exterior scenes were indeed shot in and around Boulder, Colorado, primarily for the opening and closing credits, and some stock shots for establishing locale, such as an exterior of Mindy's boarding or apartment house, the downtown Boulder Mall where Mindy's father owned a record store, the campus of "C.U." itself, and so forth.

"The program was largely a set piece, however, shot using primarily interiors built on Southern California soundstages. About this time, I lived in Florida and had a girlfriend who graduated high school and moved to Boulder to begin school at the real University there the same year "Mork & Mindy" debuted on TV. I visited Boulder twice, once on vacation and later to take up a short-lived residence.

"While there, I distinctly remember getting "the nickle tour" of Boulder at one time or another, during which I was driven past the real house used for the exterior shots of Mindy's house on "Mork & Mindy". I could not possibly give you the address, since then as now I am largely unfamiliar with most of Boulder. But the house I saw was indeed "Mindy's house". The residents of the house at the time had already put up a tall "spite fence" - in the front yard, no less - to diminish the view of so many tourists and TV fans. Yet, the multi-story Victorian (?) style home was still visible above the fence from many angles, enough to make a clear identification of it as "Mork from Ork's" home on Earth.


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