Reel Estate

Reel Estate: Find the Royal Tenenbaums in Harlem and the Bronx

By Virginia K. Smith  | July 11, 2014 - 3:59PM

When a movie is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. (Anyone who's ever lived in this place will tell you it's a character, alright.) In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the silver screen.

To kick off our series on New York properties that have gotten the big screen treatment, we're revisiting The Royal Tenenbaums. First, the Tenenbaum house, which fans of the 2001 film know is set on the fictional Archer Avenue. Its true location, though, is the corner of 144th Street and Convent Avenue in Harlem (339 Convent, to be precise). Even in a neighborhood full of majestic old brownstones, the 8,000-square-foot corner house, with its wide footprint, major staircase and honest-to-god turret, stands out. It was also a pretty enviable deal for the current owners: director Wes Anderson stumbled upon it just after it had been bought out of foreclosure for $460,000, according to the New York Observer. 

"We ended up paying [the owner] to use it," Anderson said in an interview with New York Magazine last year. "He got the house, ultimately, at no cost, because our fees for shooting there ended up being the equivalent of what he paid for it."

Unlike many movies that only make use of the exteriors, a good chunk of the movie was shot in the house: "I was very adamant that this would be a real place and that we have to make it a real place," says Anderson. "I felt like [the actors] had to have this real place that exists that they can walk into and say, 'This is my room. Here’s my room.' And they did." 

At the end of the movie, the front of the house suffers a little damage at the hands of Owen Wilson's character, Eli.

A drug-addled Eli crashes his car into the front of the Harlem house, damaging the gate.

Real estate is, in fact, part of the plot. Ben Stiller's character, Chas, is described as a childhood real estate mogul who negotiated a deal to buy the family's Eagle Island vacation home from his father. The Eagle Island house is actually situated at 21 Tier Street on City Island, as Gothamist reported a couple of years back. The home is one of the nicer buildings on the island (again with the turrets!), but the whole neighborhood also happens to be one of the city's most affordable waterfront areas, and a major seafood mecca.

The Tenenbaum family house, actually a home out on City Island, still looks exactly like it does in the movie, complete with turrets and wood shingling. (Image via The Standard Edition)

Check out more shots of the homes (and their interiors) in the trailer, or while away your next lazy night re-watching the whole thing:


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