I grew up watching “Mary Tyler Moore Show” reruns after school and wishing I could have an apartment like hers. And of course I’d have to have a neighbor like Rhoda to go with it!
Mary Richards lived on the third floor of an old Queen Anne Victorian in Minneapolis, Minnesota, behind those signature Palladian windows with the iron balcony.
Let’s take a look back at the sets from the classic sitcom.
The Mary Tyler Moore House in Minneapolis
We first see the house when she drives her white Ford Mustang up to it in Season One (above).
In real life, those Palladian windows at the top of the house led to nothing but an unfinished attic space at the time.
Later owners finished it and turned it into a media room.
The owners of the house got so tired of drive-by gawkers when the show was in its heyday that they hung an “IMPEACH NIXON” sign across the front of the house so the show couldn’t shoot new exterior shots to use in later seasons.
That’s why producers had Mary move to a high-rise apartment in 1975. I hated that storyline!
In this scene from Season One you can see
the ugly fence that surrounded the old house at the time (below):
In the first script, there was a description of what the writers had in mind for Mary’s apartment,
including “ten-foot ceilings” and “a wood-burning fireplace.”
The set designers took this description and made the room a reality:
In the first episode of the series, Mary Richards has just arrived in Minneapolis,
and her friend Phyllis shows her the apartment on the third floor.
It’s fun to look back and see it as an empty space before Mary moved in.
They even put up drapes for the scene, which we are never seen again.
When they open the drapes, Rhoda Morgenstern is washing the windows:
There isn’t a separate bedroom in the studio apartment.
Mary sleeps on a pull-out sofa in the middle of the room.
This shot shows the wall next to the door, with her famous “M” on the wall.
A view of the wall with the tiny kitchen to the left,
I love this view of the room because you can see
that the ceilings are vaulted and beamed (below):
There are hardwood floors in the apartment, and that the shag carpeting is an area rug, not wall-to-wall as it sometimes appeared (at least on the “lower level” of the room).
The furniture moves around a lot from scene to scene.
Sometimes the sofa has its back to the window. Other times it is off to the right, like it is in this scene with Phyllis (the hilarious Cloris Leachman):
It could be open to the main room, or Mary could pull down this window to close it off:
Here’s a look inside the small kitchen, with the window closed:
Here’s another view into the kitchen from the dining area, with the window up.
There’s a pot rack that wasn’t there during the earlier kitchen scenes:
Test audiences reportedly hated the show before it aired.
Rhoda was deemed “too New York.” Mary was “a loser.” And Phyllis was “too abrasive.”
The writers originally intended for Mary Richards to be divorced and leaving a bad marriage behind, but the network was afraid it would be too controversial.
Also, there was some concern that they might think she was “divorcing Dick Van Dyke” since he was her former TV husband.
CBS insisted that she arrive in Minneapolis after her boyfriend of 2 years refused to marry her.
Can someone explain to me how Rhoda managed to live upstairs from Mary, even though Mary’s on the third floor?
Never figured that one out.
Another head-scratcher: where is that octagonal window, which you can see in this shot, on the front of the house?
Here’s a cast photo from a later season that shows bookshelves on another wall
(the door to the hall is to the left of Gavin MacLeod and Betty White):
Update: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” house is on the market in Minneapolis.
Visit my Houses Onscreen page to see the other shows I’ve featured, listed A-Z.