Travel Treasures Close to Home: A Christmas Story House

by Tom Reed
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Story filed December 16, 2008

You don’t have to go far to visit appealing travel destinations. Just look around you in Ohio, neighboring states, and even in our own backyard. Veteran journalist and travel writer Tom Reed continues his series on Travel Treasures Close to Home.

On a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon in mid-December, visitors had to wait in line to get into what has become one of Cleveland’s most popular, and most offbeat, tourist attractions: “A Christmas Story House and Museum” in the Tremont area.

The house has become an especially popular destination this year, because 2008 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story”, partially filmed in Cleveland. The anniversary brings back memories to me, because at the time I was the 11 o-clock news producer for WJW-TV, and we extensively covered the filming, especially when the moviemakers took over Public Square to shoot a parade sequence and Higbee’s department store. I didn’t see the movie when it was first released, but I have seen it a couple of times since. If you haven’t seen it, try to watch it on cable TV or buy or rent a DVD before you visit the home.

Christmas Story House and Museum

The house at 3159 W. 11th Street only recently became a tourist attraction. When the previous owners put it up for sale in 2005, Brian Jones bought it for $150,000, and spent nearly a quarter of a million more to create a destination for fans of the movie. The house has been furnished to look like the home in the movie, even though interiors weren’t actually filmed there (they were shot in Ontario, Canada, as was the school Ralphie Parker and his brother attended). The museum is located across the street. A third building, a few doors away, houses the ticket office and gift shop.

Jim Moralevitz

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to the location in congested Tremont. What I didn’t expect was to meet two members of the original cast. Jim Moralevitz, who still lives in the area, played the guy who delivered the infamous “leg lamp” to the house. He says the extras were hired from people who lived on the street. And Patty Johnson, another Cleveland resident, played one of Santa’s elves in the Higbee’s scene. Neither expected the movie to become a holiday classic. Patty said it was panned by reviewers at the time, adding “we thought it would be a stinker.” Jim attributes its success to its frequent showings on TV cable channels TBS and TNT.

Two Icons

You’re not likely to see original cast members when you visit, but you will see some of the items used in the movie to create the atmosphere of the period. The movie was set in the early1940s. Toys from Higbee’s window, kitchen props such as an old Oxydol box, and clothing worn by kids and adults in the movie are all on display. What you won’t see is the original leg lamp, which was broken in the movie, or the Red Ryder BB gun that was central to the plot. However there are replicas of both, including the lamp prominently displayed in the front window of the house.

Replicas of the leg lamps are the most popular items in the gift shop. They come in four sizes, at prices ranging from $39.99 to $199.99. And BB guns are on sale for $49.99.

“A Christmas Story” House is open year around, Thursdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the website www.achristmasstoryhouse.com


Previous stories in this series have dealt with Ohio presidential sites. Go to Reed’s Read index to access them.


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