Does this house look familiar? It should if you grew up in the ’60s. It was the home of Samantha and Darren Stevens on Bewitched, a series that ended in 1972 — 51 years ago. Earlier this month, on a Friday the 13th, that house and several other beloved TV exterior sets seen on shows such as Hazel, Gidget, I Dream of Jeannie, The Monkees, The Partridge Family and The Waltons, were demolished to make room for new soundstages and studio offices. Paging doctor Bombay!
Look, I get it. Houses don’t last forever. The house I grew up in, at 5308 Dundas St. West in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, was torn down right after my parents sold it in 1968 — halfway through the run of Bewitched. To this day it bugs me that nobody fetched my model train set out of the basement!
The Stevens’ address was 1164 Morning Glory Circle but the house really stood as part of the Warner Brothers Ranch as 411 N. Hollywood Way in Burbank, Calif. Decades earlier, it was the home of the 40-acre Columbia Ranch purchased by Jack Warner in 1934. Back then, this land was the site of exterior sets used by The Three Stooges as well as the “Blondie” movies and later for TV shows such as Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show.
Before that it was, well, an actual ranch. The San Fernando Valley has changed a ton in 90 years. The massive Warner Bros Studios are nearby, as is the university campus-like Disney Studio lot. NBC, including the studio where Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show was the late night place to be for two decades in LA, was just another couple of streets away.
Many years ago, Disney ripped down the Mary Poppins house and several other remnants of its live-action exterior set days to make room for trendy new offices and administration buildings. On the raised Warner Ranch lands, renown Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry has designed two office buildings slated to be built where the famous TV facades once stood.
Studios aren’t amusement parks. If you want nostalgia, hurry down to Anaheim and check out if the Tiki Bird attraction or the century-old merry-go-round that once twirled in Sunnyside in Toronto is still part of Disneyland. On the Warners Ranch lot, one remnant of TV glory has been preserved and re-located: a large round fountain that stood near the Stevens’ homestead. Nicknamed the “Friends fountain” because it was used in the opening title sequence of that series, it was moved in 2022 and now splashes on the main WB studio lot.
As for the white house that belonged to the Kravitzes on Bewitched and later was home to The Partridge Family, well, it was torn down on the 13th along with the Stevens’ place. Unlike the Friends fountain, it hasn’t been their day, or week, or month or even their year.
Los Angeles in general has a terrible reputation for razing once cool landmarks. Tail of the Cock (Rooster-themed, please), an eatery in Studio City where the cast of The Bob Newhart Show would dine after every Friday night taping, was torn down back when I lived in The Valley in the ’80s. Gone too is its little hot dog stand sister on Beverly, Tail of the Pup. Nate ‘n’ Als in Beverly Hills has served its last pastrami on rye. The Brown Derby is long gone.
Even things erected years later to salute Hollywood landmarks don’t last long. The multi-level mall at Hollywood and Highland — which is next door to the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held — used to be adorned with giant elephants and other artifacts representing D. W. Griffith’s “Intolerance” (1916). The remains of the original set stood on that site for many years. The reproductions were yanked down a couple of years ago.
Some TV and movie studios do attempt to honour what went before on their studio properties. As a long time member of the Television Critics Association, I’ve had the privilege of visiting quite a few sets and often the soundstages have brass shields outside the doors declaring what went before. Here, for example, is a link to a feature I wrote in 2015 after a visit to the Warners lot and a ceremony christening the Two and a Half Men soundstage. The sign outside identified this as the former home of The Waltons, Designing Women and V.
On a 2018 visit to the set of Young Sheldon, critics were shuttled to Stage 12, which once upon a time was the playpen for Wonder Women, Gilmore Girls and Norm, not to mention a couple of films titled “Casablanca,” and “Ghostbusters.”
History intersects across many a Hollywood studio lot. I’ll never forget how thrilled Jason Bateman was to be shooting Arrested Development on the same Paramount stage that once housed “Young Frankenstein.”
Here’s another link to a story I wrote in 2012 about my late, great friend, photographer Gene Trindl. Gene, who shot 200 covers for TV Guide, traveled to the Warners Ranch in 1966 to shoot four lads about to embark on a zany new NBC comedy: The Monkees.
The studio where the most classic exterior sets remain is the Universal Studios lot. That’s where you can still see the Psycho house. To find it, just follow the Psycho path. That’s an actual joke they tell on the Universal Studios theme park tour.
At Universal, the Leave it to Beaver house was later mixed in with the row of houses seen on Desperate Housewives. While these were all facades with no real inside-the-house components (interiors were shot on soundstages), you can see the familiar outsides of all these houses to this day as part of the Universal Studios back lot tour. Too bad Darrin and Samantha never moved into that neighbourhood.