Reel Estate

Reel Estate: The real Miracle on 34th Street—a house in the 'burbs

By Virginia K. Smith | November 26, 2014 - 8:59AM 

When a movie or TV show is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the screen.

Miracle on 34th Street is rightly beloved as a Christmas classic, but lest we forget, it deserves credit as a Thanksgiving movie, too: after all, the action kicks off at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. 

When Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), who's in charge of Macy's parade logistics, realizes her hired Santa is too drunk to go on, a kindly, Santa-like old man steps in (spoiler: he is actually Santa!!). Later that day, her daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood), is watching the parade from the living room window of their neighbor across the hall, Fred Gailey (John Payne). It's all a ruse—albeit a pretty wholesome one—for Susan to talk her mom into inviting Fred  for Thanksgiving dinner.

Though it was likely a sound stage, the Walkers' apartment seems realistic enough—the living room has space for a table, sure, but that cramped galley kitchen seems about right, especially for a pre-war. (The movie was made in 1947, but we're assuming this place was not a new development.) It would also seem the building is partially staffed—when trying to explain to Susan why she fired the drunk Santa actor, Doris says, "Do you remember how the janitor was last New Year's?" 

Hooked on Houses; The Old Movie House

Back at Macy's, real-Santa is a hit because he tells parents exactly where to find the toys their kids want, whether or not it's at Macy's—seemingly a genius PR gambit. However, since he maintains that he actually is Kris Kringle, he's deemed mentally unsound, and Doris and a colleague decide he should stay with someone. Hoping to get closer to the Walkers, Fred volunteers his extra twin bed. (This movie was shot in an era when everyone—whether they're married couples or bachelors—has twin beds, thanks to tighter "decency" standards.)

The Old Movie House

Santa asks Fred if he likes living in Manhattan, and Fred responds that it's alright, but he eventually wants to decamp for the suburbs. "Not a big house, just one of those Junior Partner deals around Manhasset." Susan—a Santa skeptic—feels similarly, and shows Kris a photo of the house she'd like (she's less interested in a Central Park West address than access to a backyard and swing set). If he can hook it up, then she'll really believe:

In the interim, Kris gets put on trial for claiming to be Santa Claus, Fred acts as his lawyer and improbably wins the case, and the trio visits him on Christmas. Kris' "alternate" directions for their drive home, ostensibly to beat traffic, take them right by the house. Susan demands Fred stop the car, and runs right in:

This was shot at an actual house in Port Washington, Long Island, which still looks more or less the same, and these days, has an estimated value of $758,422.

It's assumed that they take the house, and all live happily ever after on Long Island, minus the hassle of coming up with the down payment—note that the house Santa sent them to is for sale, not already purchased in their names. Even Kris Kringle's generosity has its limits.


For the best seat in town, apartments along the Thanksgiving Day parade route

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