Thursday, April 20, 2023

There Goes the Neighborhood


It’s not a real street. You won’t find it indexed on Google Maps, or on any postal carrier’s route.


The houses too aren’t real. They look charming from the outside, with their freshly mowed lawns and white picket fences, but if you opened the front door on any of them, you’d be stepping into an empty shell – no furniture, no carpet, no appliances. Houses, not homes – no one ever really lived in any of them.


But for the first generations of Americans that came of age with television, this was a street as familiar as the one where they grew up. It was a place they visited regularly for years, even decades, often several times a week. It was warm, and welcoming, and special. 


It was the place where Bud Anderson worked on his jalopy, while his father offered advice on life that was sometimes heeded, sometimes not. 



It was where the Partridge Family rehearsed for their next club date.


It was where Dennis the Menace gave Mr. Wilson one headache after another.


It’s where Major Nelson returned home, wondering what chaos Jeannie was about to conjure when he stepped inside. 



It’s where Mary Stone’s boyfriends paused on the front porch after a date, hoping for a kiss goodnight.


It’s where Gidget grabbed her surfboard before heading to the beach.


It’s where Mrs. Kravitz spotted so many strange goings-on at the Stephens residence, across the street at Morning Glory Circle. 



All of those things happened there. Maybe the moments were no more real than the houses themselves, but they still exist in our collective memories, in a place that blended fantasy and reality. If classic television – if Comfort TV – had a dwelling place, this street was it.


And soon it will be gone. This week, the process of tearing down the homes began.


On the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank, it was designated as Blondie St., after a series of popular films that were filmed there. It was never part of the studio’s tours, so most of us never had the chance to have their pictures taken in front of these homes or just stroll down the sidewalk and soak in the nostalgic rush. A few lucky fans with a connection managed to get there – I know quite a few of them. I was not as fortunate. I had an invitation extended to me back in 2014, but before I could schedule a visit the WB employee who contacted me was laid off, and no one else filled her position.


Why is this happening? If we are to believe the few sources even bothering to report on this, it’s about money. The land where these structures sit can be repurposed for soundstages that will contribute more to the studio’s bottom line.


That is probably the motivation. I have no reason to think otherwise. But given so many other events that have happened around the nation over the past ten years or so, I can’t not see this as something else as well – the destruction of what these places represent.


What values were promoted by the shows set in these homes? What types of families lived there? What did they look like, and how did they live? What lessons did their kids learn at school? Did they understand the difference between right and wrong? Between men and women? Were they patriotic? Were they religious? Did they value work? Did they live in a place with dances, and socials, local ball leagues, community singing, and parades? 



If you grew up with these shows as I did, and if you still watch them as I do, you know the answer. And I doubt that those responsible for producing the television shows now emerging from that studio will give a second thought to eradicating any reminders of that time.


I wrote this back in 2014:


There’s a reason we bestow landmark status on exceptional places. It elevates them above mere property controlled by a corporation, and protects them against the whims of the bureaucrat, the robber baron and the unenlightened. Blondie Street is a place to walk in the footsteps of television’s most beloved characters. It has the ability to reconnect adults with the blissful days of their childhoods.


Perhaps that’s not sufficient for the kind of safekeeping afforded to the Ryman Auditorium or the Old North Church. But if the home of Millard Fillmore can make the cut, so can the home of Samantha Stephens. 


That’s what I thought then. I still think so now. But now it’s too late, or soon will be. Empty facades on a sham street, some will say – who will miss them?


I will. Very much.




  1. Well, this is sad news but a nice piece David, a sweet, wistful read. To be honest, I'm surprised these houses stood as long as they did. I was just reading about the "real" Bewitched house a couple nights ago, the one in Santa Monica they built a reproduction of (and looks better than ever). If you go to this link and reverse the photo, it's amazing to see.

    1. I've been there - it's not too far from where Shelley Hack used to live. Now I know it's the closest I'll get to the real thing.

    2. Wow--why am I not surprised! David, on a somewhat related note I wonder what HGTV is going to do with the reconstructed Brady Bunch house? I'm surprised they haven't been doing more promotional things with the place.

    3. It's in a residential neighborhood so they can't really commercialize it with tours, or turn it into a museum, etc. I suppose they could make it an Airbnb and rent it out that way.

  2. As the older generation that remembers some of these shows is slowly passing on the younger ones that make these decisions were not alive or prob have not watched some of the shows, they dont have any emotional connection to it. Sadly this is just the way it will continue to be.

    1. Agreed. And one day something with meaning to them will be destroyed by a subsequent generation. Maybe then they'll understand.

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