“Miracle on 34th Street:” Susan Walker Wishes for a House

by hookedonhouses on December 5, 2011

Last week I asked you what your favorite holiday-movie houses were and was amazed by the number of tweets, Facebook comments, and emails that came pouring in. One of the most mentioned was the classic Miracle on 34th Street, starring a precocious 8-year old Natalie Wood as the little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.

My favorite part of the movie has always been when Susan sees her dream house and realizes that Kris Kringle has gotten it for her. That made a big impression on me as a kid. “You mean I can ask Santa for a HOUSE?”

Maureen O’Hara starred as Doris Walker, a single mom who works for Macy’s, organizing the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Let’s take a look at her New York City apartment. There are curtains on either side of the entry:

The movie was deemed “morally objectionable” by the Legion of Decency at the time because it featured a divorced woman. We see her neighbor Fred Gailey does a double-take when Susan tells him that her parents divorced when she was a baby.

It was also less common to see a successful professional woman onscreen in 1947, when the movie came out.

Edmund Gwenn played the kind-hearted old man who insists he’s Kris Kringle. He’s still one of my favorite onscreen Santas.

Maureen O’Hara always seemed so, well, grown up in this movie that I was surprised to learn she was only 27 when she filmed it.

One of my favorite things to see in old movies are the kitchens because those are the rooms that have probably changed more than any other over the years. Considering how roomy the rest of the apartment is, this one is pretty cozy!

Susan’s bedroom:

When Kris asks her what she wants for Christmas, Susan shows him this picture of a Cape Cod on Long Island:

Doris could look through her window into her neighbor Fred’s apartment and see her daughter watching the parade with him:

Fred (played by John Payne) had the perfect view of the parade from this windowseat:

The impressive scenes of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade were footage of the actual parade held in 1946. Edmund Gwenn was really Santa that year, too. They had to get all the shots they needed that day because retakes were impossible to get later.

We get a glimpse of Fred’s kitchen:

In the end, Susan thinks Kris Kringle hasn’t come through for her, but she keeps telling herself, “I believe. I believe,” as she’s riding in a car with Fred and her mother. Then she sees the simple Cape Cod she had wished for with a “For Sale” sign in the yard.

I still get chills every time she cries, “Stop, Uncle Fred, stop!” and then runs up to the front door.

Here’s how the house looks today. It’s located in Port Washington, New York, and someone added a dormer window to it along the way. (Photo via CNBC.)

Love the scene where little Susie runs around the empty house, squealing with delight. That’s exactly what I would do!

Every time I see the movie I’m disappointed that we don’t get the full tour of the house. Or get to see it after they move in with all their furniture in it! Is that too much to ask?

Kris Kringle’s cane is in the corner by the fireplace, which convinces them that maybe there is a little Christmas magic involved in all this, after all…

A few of you mentioned that you love the remake of this movie that John Hughes cowrote and produced in 1994, so I watched it again last night, too. Susan’s dream house in that version is a big, beautiful yellow house that is fully furnished and decorated for Christmas. We’ll take a look at that one next Monday! (Did you see which Christmas-movie house got the most votes in last week’s poll?)

P.S. Maureen O’Hara was in another classic that features great sets: The Parent Trap.

 Looking for photos from your favorite movie? Check the list!

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angfreda December 5, 2011 at 8:50 am

Somewhere along the way that house lost it’s charm… how sad.

Mike December 5, 2011 at 9:45 am

I wonder if it’s because at 60+ years old now, it really needs some updating for curb appeal?

angfreda December 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm

If it still looked like it did in the movie that charm would still exist. They messed with it’s classic charm… adding that dormer and removing those shutters on the other dormer didn’t help. That may just be me though.

Kathy Strader December 5, 2011 at 9:06 am

This is one of my favorite movies! Thanks for the apartment tour. I too enjoy when Susan runs into the house squealing. It is a fun reminder of what it is like to walk into a house and know when you’ve seen the one you were meant to have.

Peggy December 5, 2011 at 9:11 am

We watched this movie (again!) just the other night. As many times as I’ve watched this movie, I never noticed that gorgeous mirror in the apartment foyer! And I’ll bet those birdcage Windsor chairs looked perfect in the little Cape Cod on L.I.!

nanne December 5, 2011 at 9:14 am

i love that huge fireplace in the living room!!

Pamela December 5, 2011 at 9:26 am

You’d think this would be the one house in the world you couldn’t suck the charm from – yet the current owners have managed to do just that.

Thanks for the posting – I love the NYC apartment!

Mike December 5, 2011 at 9:44 am

Without a doubt, this is my favorite Christmas movie. I like the remake, too, but this one is the best. I never really noticed how small the house looks!

Karena December 5, 2011 at 10:47 am

I still adore the vintage films and then Holiday and Love Actually for Current films1

Please Come and enter in My 12 Days of Holiday Giveaways. There are so many exciting & special Gifts! Tis the Season!

xoxo

Karena
Art by Karena

Katie December 5, 2011 at 11:25 am

I’ve always loved Susan’s apartment and the Cape Cod house – both so different but equally charming. I took a similar look at the house in It’s a Wonderful Life on my blog today. Christmas movies and home decor = a perfect combo!

Lily December 5, 2011 at 11:34 am

This was really fun – my favortie christmas movie.

Do you have any information on the apartments from the update of this movie?

Amanda @ Serenity Now December 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I’m a classic girl, all the way. LOVED the original, and the Santa was absolute perfection. :) Love the staircase and the windows in the house. :)

Jerilyn December 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Since I discovered your site a few weeks ago, I’ve been popping in practically every day to check out old (and new) posts but have never left a comment. So, here’s one just to say ‘I’m hooked!’ Keep up the good work, I am really enjoying the content :)

hookedonhouses December 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm

That’s so nice! Thanks for taking the time to say hello, Jerilyn. :-)

Kim December 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Thanks for sharing this. “Miracle on 34th Street” is one of my favorite Christmas movies.

Susan’s home is very beautiful. The inside kind of reminds of me of the interior used in “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream Home”. I also really like Susan’s apartment too.

It saddens me that the owners ruined the charm of the original house by adding that ugly dorm window. Like the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

kelly in georgia December 5, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Oh I love this movie! and I just watched the remake last week…and was thinking “Julia should do a post on the fully furnished house at the end of the movie!” Yippee! Can’t wait for next week.
Merry Christmas!
Kelly

Junie December 5, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Julia, I just had to laugh when I read, “Every time I see the movie I’m disappointed that we don’t get the full tour of the house. Or get to see it after they move in with all their furniture in it! Is that too much to ask?”

Recently I rewatched Back Street (the good 1961 version with all the neat interiors and clothes) and was so disappointed that the French country house Paul buys for Rae wasn’t shown more fully. That lovely little house is what I remembered most about the movie when I saw it as a girl. We didn’t even get to see how Rae decorated all the rooms.

Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who carries her hooked on houses addiction right into her movie viewing. (When I want to drive my husband nuts, I comment out loud on all the things I’m thinking about a movie’s sets while we’re watching it. He simply can’t believe anyone would notice, say, countertops in a movie kitchen.)

hookedonhouses December 6, 2011 at 8:26 am

The other movie that drives me nuts is “Money Pit.” After we spend the entire movie watching them fix up the house, we don’t get to see how it all turned out. So frustrating!

Junie December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Yes!

annette December 5, 2011 at 6:44 pm

What is it about the black and white Christmas movies from the forties that have retained so much charm and glamour? Thanks for posting this .What about The Bishops Wife and It Happened on 5th Avenue? If you haven’t seen them,give them a try.

hookedonhouses December 6, 2011 at 8:29 am

I don’t remember “It Happened on 5th Avenue.” I’ll have to look that one up–thanks, Annette!

belledame December 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm

that bathrobe natalie wood is wearing? mrs. cunningham had one in a tomato/puce color on “happy days.” i remember b/c i was in college when i noticed that mrs. c had the same robe as my own lavendar one. floor length dressing gown, with piped lapels, french cuffs and three pocket slits. i used to walk up and down the dorm hallways miming my oscar acceptance speech in it. it really billowed and flowed beautifully.

hookedonhouses December 6, 2011 at 8:27 am

That’s hilarious! Love it.

Thyme2Be December 6, 2011 at 12:23 am

Loved your review – as always! One of my favorite movies – and my dream condo (at the time) came with a cane hanging in the hall closet when I moved in – you can imagine my delight! I always look forward to your posts – thank you!

Rebecca December 6, 2011 at 1:22 am

I love this movie, as well as the remake. This is by far my favorite Christmas movie ever. Can’t wait to see your post next week.

Laurie December 6, 2011 at 8:38 am

I think what messes up that dormer the new owners put in are the windows. It seems like one solid sheet of glass. Would have been cuter, maybe, with two smaller dormers or casement windows with panes?? It almost seems too modern slapped up there.

hookedonhouses December 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

Good point!

Kris December 7, 2011 at 1:22 am

I agree also. It would have made a huge difference if it would have been a traditional looking dormer on a Cape Cod style house.

Looking at the “inside” pictures of the house in the movie, I notice that the inside doesn’t match the outside or else I’m just not seeing that patio door next to the fireplace anywhere on the actual house.

Okay, just checked youtube- the house on the set has the fireplace on the back of the house and the actual house has the fireplace on the left side.

shabbychick December 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm

OOH, I’m so glad you’re going to feature the remake house, I love that one! And I always love Maureen O’Hara, too.

Orrie December 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Hi,
My wife and I are the owners of the house that appears in Miracle on 34th Street. And, no, we did not know it was a “movie star” when we fell in love with it and decided on the spot to buy it.

The dormer was added decades before we bought the house; in the 1950s or ’60s. I don’t recall that the shutters were on the small dormer when we moved in. We replaced the original wood shutters on the front window after a few years, because they were rotting. The originals looked like they were cobbled up on the spot when the house was being built.

The interior in the movie is not the interior of our house, which is quite small with 7 1/2-foot ceilings, and there are no french doors out to the backyard. The interior shown in the movie is much larger. Someone said they thought that the interior looks like the one in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. That could be. I’ve heard that the Mr. Blandings house also is (or was) in Port Washington.

I’m sorry that so many people feel the dormer ruins the house, but it was an important factor in our buying the house. We needed a house where we could have a living space for an elderly relative. She always loved living in a bright place, and the dormer won her over. By the way, the single large pane of the dormer window is double glazed.

Our house is one of several built here just before World War II. Their designs were said to have been inspired by traditional or historic American homes. The house two doors up from ours, we believe was based on the Schenck House, a 17th Century house that is now in the Brooklyn Museum. Unfortunately, I don’t know if our house was inspired by a specific traditional or historic structure.

The houses on this street were well-built with real plaster walls and ceilings, sturdy framing and quality materials throughout, despite their small size. We recently had a new roof installed, which meant stripping off the three old roofs, including the original wooden shingles. Although the new roof is made of modern materials, we selected a “slate” color that seems to be in keeping with the style of the house.

We enjoy living here, and, although we do not go out of way to tell people about the house’s “celebrity” status, when it comes up, we enjoy their smiles and excitement.
Orrie

hookedonhouses December 19, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Oh, wow, how great to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to give us more details about the house. It has really become a Christmas icon! :)

Sarah December 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Orrie, I love your house just the way it is! I strongly disagree with other posters who have said that the house has “lost it’s charm”. The exterior of the house looks pretty much the way it did back in the late 1940′s – and that is a good thing! So many old houses are renovated and “updated” to the point of being beyond recognition of what they originally were. Your house is adorable and still fills me with nostalgia. I actually really like the addition of the dormer window – it breaks up the roof line and is more visually interesting. Plus, like you said, it must bring some great light into your house.
This may be a bold request, but I wonder if you had any interior pictures you would want to share with us house addicts?

christina December 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Orrie love your house! I have relatives in Huntington and Amagansett and I love old homes. I too would love to see interior shots of your home :) Anyway Happy Holidays to you and yours :) Christina

Michael Wolf January 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm

What a charming house. I love the 1947 Miracle on 34th street, one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. Personally I think it should have won Picture of the Year, as it did win for Best original Story and Best Supporting actor (Edmund Gwynn). The best thing about the movie is that it stands the test of time and is still a great movie to watch with the family. When you think of the cast, John Payne, Maureen O’Hara ( a personal favorite), Edmund Gwynn, William Frawley, Gene Lockhart, Porter Hall, Natalie Wood, Jack Albertson and other’s, you see the amount of talent that was used in that movie and the shots of 34th street are just wonderful. Chock Full of Nuts on 34th street is still there, as is the sign and Santa up until 1954 used to stand on the overhang above the 34th street entrance of Macy’s. it was only when the crowds got so big that they decided not to stand up above the entrance anymore, that and the fact that it was getting a little old and they didn’t want a accident with tragic results to happen! What a great movie and in fact I am watching it as I type…..Gwynn just hit porter in the head with his umbrella….LOL! (There’s only one way to handle a man like you, your heartless, you won’t listen to reason……ARE YOU GOING TO LEAVE…….yes….BOP! LMAO!) The one thing I wish was that the upper level wasn’t added to the Long Island house, but other than that, it still looks great and the old trees can still be seen in the back…..Marvelous Movie and timeless……..when Hollywood was golden!

Michael Wolf January 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm

One question…….Is the swing still in the backyard of that charming house? “Susie, where are you going? “To see if there’s a swing, THERE IS ONE THERE IS ONE!”

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