by Dan Kane
About 50,000 visitors a year are drawn to an unassuming two-story house on West 11th Street in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.
Why? It’s Ralphie Parker’s house.
As legions of fans worldwide can tell you, Ralphie is the boy hero of “A Christmas Story,” the beloved holiday film that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Shot in Cleveland, the nostalgic 1983 comedy used this 11th Street residence for the home of the Parker family. In 2004, it was bought by a “Christmas Story” fan named Brian Jones, who proceeded to convert it into a tourist attraction.
“Brian restored the house back to its original movie splendor. At the time, it was totally updated with blue vinyl siding and new windows,” said Angela Dickerson, chief of operations for A Christmas Story House and Museum. “He purchased it for $150,000 then spent $250,000 to renovate it back to the way it looked in the movie.”
Since its opening during Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, the house and museum — directly across the street — have wecomed visitors from all 50 states and countries all over the world, including Germany, England, China, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, Mexico and Thailand.
“When you step into the house, you step into the Parker family home from the 1940s,” Dickerson said. “The house is completely interactive. We want them to feel they are in Ralphie’s world. You can climb under the sink, grab the BB gun from behind the desk and put the Lifebuoy soap in your mouth. You can touch and feel everything.”
The accompanying museum has behind-the-scenes photos, costumes and other memorabilia from “A Christmas Story,” including toys from the Higbee Co. display windows, the chalkboard from Mrs. Shields’ classroom and the Parker family car.
Opening Friday in a building next to the museum is a new souvenir shop, expanded from 500 square feet to 3,500. “We have over 300 products related to the movie — leg lamps, bunny suits, BB guns, houseware items, ornaments,” Dickerson said. “Pretty much anything you can think of, we have.”
While there’s an understandable increase in visitors at Christmas time — with 24,000 visitors last December alone — “Summer is actually quite busy for us. We have a lot of out-of-town guests then,” Dickerson said. “We have a map in the museum where you can put a pushpin where you are from. It’s fun to look at the places literally all around the world.”