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Colonial Street – The Cleaver House / Leave It To Beaver House

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This set is also known as the Paramount House – it was built for the movie “Desperate Hours” (1955) which was produced by Paramount Studios, and was the main exterior house featured in that movie. When MCA Revue Productions became the new owners of the Universal International backlot – the Paramount house  became the Cleaver home in season three of “Leave it to Beaver” TV Series. In 1955, the house was located at the intersection between New England Street and Colonial Street of the old River Road, and featured in a number of productions [see full list below]. The Paramount house replaced a house set labeled set #21 seen in movies such as ‘Here Come the Nelsons’ (1951) and ‘Any Body Seen My Gal’ (1955).  This set was later moved to Industrial Street set #1. Then came….

Leave it to Beaver

This classic of American television was on air between 1957 and 1963, giving the viewers an insight into the wholesome lives of Theodore ‘Beaver’ Cleaver, his brother Wally and his parents Ward and June. The show was shot on Stage 17 at Universal between 1959 and 1963 (it’s first 2 years from 1957 were at Republic Studios). The former ‘Paramount House’ became an overnight star and became known as the Cleaver House.

After ‘Leave it to Beaver’

The house later appeared as the home of Marcus Welby in ‘Marcus Welby M.D.’ (1969 – 1976).

Still the Beaver (1985 – 1989)

This show reunited the original cast and showed how they may have ended up. It was in production at Universal between 1985 and 1988. The last season was shot at the still under construction Universal Studios Florida. Production on the Tom Hanks comedy ‘The ‘Burbs’ began on Colonial Street at Universal Studios Hollywood in the summer of 1988, which needed to remove the Cleaver house from the street. It’s not known if this was the only reason for the move to Florida.

Photo Gallery – Current house on Colonial Street

This house currently features as ‘4352 Wisteria Lane’ on Desperate Housewives, and was originally built for the 1996 ‘Leave It To Beaver’ movie. It’s been on Colonial Street ever since.

Photo Gallery – Old ‘Leave it to Beaver’ house

Old Paramount House above Falls Lake

This house is in a poor state of repair up a rarely-used road above Falls Lake. It was removed from Colonial Street in 1989 during pre-production of ‘The ‘Burbs’ (see history below). The tram tour doesn’t visit this set storage area.

Leave It To Beaver – A brief history of the Cleaver’s house

The first thing to remember when talking about the Cleavers house is that there were actually 2 different houses occupied by Beaver and family during the course of the shows 1957-63 run. During the first two seasons of the show, the Cleavers lived at 485 Maple Drive in the fictional town of Mayfield. During seasons 3 through 6, their new home was at 211 Pine Street, still in Mayfield. In the years since the original show aired, the house at 211 Pine Street has become the one most identified with the show.

Both Cleaver homes existed as interior sets built on a sound stage and exterior facade sets on a studio backlot street. The Maple Drive house facade was part of a residential set street at the Republic Studios (now CBS Studio Center). Today the former Cleaver house is either gone or altered so much as to be unrecognizable. The latter Cleaver home was and is of course at Universal City Studios in California. The house and garage facades were constructed for the 1955 Humphrey Bogart movie Desperate Hours. This was actually a Paramount Pictures release, but it was not unusual for studios to rent each other’s backlots to suit their production needs. A one storey bungalow-style house was moved to the end of the street to make room for the new facade. The house was referred to internally at Universal as the ‘Paramount House’. [The Delta house was also used in Desperate Hours]

In Desperate Hours, the house is largely the same as it would appear 4 years later on ‘Beaver’.

The house was changed little to get it ready for filming Beaver. A room extension on the garage side was removed as well as a few other small details. Unlike some, the house exterior was complete and detailed on all four sides to match the interior Cleaver house sets. This meant a greater range of places than a realistic outdoor scene could be done. For this reason, the house and street exteriors were used frequently during the ‘Beaver’ production. ‘Stock’ shots were done, such as Ward’s car arriving home or simple ‘establishing’ shots of the house during day or night. In addition, most episodes featured part of the action taking place somewhere on the exterior of the house. This gave the show a much more ‘movie-like’ feel, unlike many sitcoms of the time where the entire show took place on just a few interior sets.

After ‘Beaver’ wrapped in 1963 and throughout the 1960s, the facade continued to play minor roles in countless movies and TV shows, usually as just another house in the background. The house landed a starring role again in 1969 through 1976 in TV’s Marcus Welby M.D. This time the front appearance of the house was radically altered to become the home office of the title character. In 1981, Universal relocated Colonial Street and a few other set streets to the West end of the back lot. The houses were reassembled in a different order on a new Colonial Street – one that had been re-designed to better accommodate the tour trams. During the move, the original Cleaver’s garage ended up on Industrial Street – a row of smaller (mostly 1-story) houses. The garage sits next to one of two houses from the original Colonial Street that were re-located to the new Industrial Street in 1981. The Marcus Welby alterations to the house stayed intact until 1983 when it was restored to its LITB appearance for the production of ‘Still the Beaver’ – the CBS television movie-of-the-week that continued the story of the Cleaver family in the 80s. The TV movie spawned a New Leave it to Beaver series that ran until 1989.

During the production of the new Beaver series, there were a few minor differences compared to the original show – none really noticable to the viewer. This time, the garage set was a simple two-sided facade and was located closer to the kitchen-side of the house. The familiar breezeway structure was still there, albeit shorter. The rear of the exterior set was never shot for the new series since there was a tram access road literally 8 feet from the back of the house. Shots of the Cleavers on the back patio were only done on the interiors sets in a soundstage. The Cleaver’s house facade also had the destinction of housing the restrooms for Colonial Street- ironic since in the original series, June always wanted a downstairs bathroom!

Shooting of the 1988-89 season of The New Leave it to Beaver was moved to Universal Studios Florida. The interior sets for the show were packed up and reassembled for shooting at their new home in Orlando, but the exterior house facade stayed behind. In 1989, the Cleaver house facade was uprooted once again to make room for a new house facade for the movie ‘The Burbs’. In the movie, the street was named ‘Mayfield Place’ in honor of Colonial Street’s most famous house, even though that house was gone.

The Cleaver house facade ended up in a far corner of the Universal backlot at the end of a barely-paved road off the path of the tram tour. This is where the house sits today in a somewhat neglected state. In the past few years, a few other old facades have ended up in the same small area- including Wally’s house from the New Beaver series. These sets are still available for use for film crews, but not longer as part of a grand residential street set. If you take the tram tour today, your attention will be directed to the Leave it to Beaver House right in the middle of Colonial Street- this is however not the original house. It is the facade built for the 1996 production of the Leave it to Beaver Movie. While similar in style and bearing all the trademark features of the original house (3 dormer windows, garage, bay windows and brick walkway leading to the front door in the center of the house), make no mistake- this is NOT the original house from the TV series. For some reason, the tram tour guides do not make the distinction.

Mark Director, Mayfield Historical Society

Seen on Screen: Universal Studios Hollywood [Cleaver]

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COMMENTS

  1. Colonial Street

    Now known the home of Gabrielle Solis (2003 – present)) and Carlos Solis (2003 – 2006 and 2008 – present) as 4349 Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives, this set has a long history. It was originally built for the 1946 movie ‘So Goes My Love’ where it was originally built on a soundstage.

  2. Colonial Street

    The street set has a long history, spanning over 60 years of movies and television. From 2004 to 2012, it was used in the filming of the TV series Desperate Housewives, in which the street was known as Wisteria Lane.

  3. The Cleaver House / Leave It To Beaver House

    Photo Gallery – Current house on Colonial Street. This house currently features as ‘4352 Wisteria Lane’ on Desperate Housewives, and was originally built for the 1996 ‘Leave It To Beaver’ movie. It’s been on Colonial Street ever since.

  4. Studio Tour

    Welcome back to Wisteria Lane, also known as Colonial Street on the Universal Studios Lot. This street has been home to numerous hit television shows, produc...

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    Can You Visit Wisteria Lane/Colonial Street? Yes! You absolutely can. Since it’s still a stop on the famous studio tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, you can book to see the exteriors and idyllic street for yourself next time you’re in the area. I can honestly think of no better way to spend an afternoon… aside from watching all my ...