Of Munsters and Bunker Hill


1313They were eastern European immigrants, utterly integrated into the ways of American society. They were doting, loving parents; rarely does television depict such a highly functional family. They were the Munsters, and they existed to teach us valuable, eternal lessons: build hot rods out of hearses and caskets. Let your home be overrun by the Standells and their beatnik buddies. And see that your house is the biggest and spookiest on the block.

Aside from these eternal lessons, the Munsters also represented something particular to their time–to be exact, Sept.‘64-May ‘66. (No, I‘m not talking about that despite their status as affable, upstanding citizens, the average American really didn‘t want to live next door to someone whose skin was a different color.) For our purposes I want to look at another member of the Munster clan, the house itself: 1313 Mockingbird Lane.

lightningflashThe Munster manse is important to our topic at hand because it represents the attitude toward Victorian architecture at the time the CRA was in its wholesale frenzy of demolition: in a world blooming with Cliff May and Eichler knock-offs, 1313 was an ungainly, awkward embarrassment. It was, to many, nothing if not downright frightening. And those who would live in such a place? They must be odd in the extreme. Beyond curious. Again, frightening: those who dare knock on that door usually end up vaulting themselves over the gate and running down the street in terror. Besides having skin of a different color (in this case, green), the dwellers therein are, in fact, monsters.

The Addams Family also had a big creepy house, though it was more a museum (as noted in theme song, of course) than mired in decrepitude. If the Addams examination of landed gentry‘s eccentricities has any bearing on Bunker Hill, it is only in illuminating the Bunker Hill of yore–therein lies no bearing on the Bunker Hill of 1965. (Interestingly, the shot of the Addams house in the first episode was filmed down at 21 Chester Place [and is now, sadly, demolished].)

The house at Chester Place, and its matte-painted addition:



001CemeteryRidgeNevertheless, while one could view Gomez as a demented Doheny, or a cracked Crocker, perhaps because (Charles) Addams‘s work is so associated with the New Yorker, there‘s something rather East Coast about the Addamses. After all, the Italianate Addams place was modeled after a house from Chas‘s New Jersey boyhood, or a building at U-Penn, depending on whom you ask.

There‘s something uniquely Angeleno about the Munsters–when you take the Koach out to Mockingbird Heights drag strip, you can smell the Pomona. The Munsters went to Marineland. Herman hung with Dodger manager Leo Durocher.
1313 was every bit Bunker Hill–dig the deep central Gothic-arched porch, the extensive use of shabby shingle, the patterned chimney. The asymmetrical double porches and widow‘s walk are a nice touch. Its most notable feature might be the spook-faced gable. And inside; no well-intentioned postwar updates there–all spindlework and heavy drapes and art-glass lamps. The crumbling stone gates, the overgrowth”¦this was disrepair in all its Gesamkunstwerkiness. The gag, of course, was that 1313 was the one and only of its kind on the block. The standout. The sore thumb. Bunker Hill was a nest of these things.

Making matters worse, a Munster stood for something. A Munster stood for his home, protecting it with his or her life (undead though they may be). In “Munster on the Move,” (Season 1, Episode 27, airdate March 25, 1965) Herman gets a promotion at the parlor whereby the family must sell the house and move to Buffalo. Grandpa inadvertently sells to a wrecking company; when the Munsters find out the house‘s fate, they put the good of the house before their own self-interest. When the bulldozers show up, the family is out front, cannons packed with Grandma‘s best silver. The head of the wrecking crew shakes his head in disgust, but not disbelief; says it reminds him of the little old ladies who threw themselves in front of the bulldozers when they were tearing down their homes for the freeway system. “Look Jack, I bought this place to wreck it and put in a parking lot. Now move it, because we‘re coming through.” After the wreckers see that Herman can swing a wrecking ball around, they turn tail and flee.

Wreckers arrive:


Herman reasons with them to great effect:


Bunker Hill had its Frank Babcock, but even he was no Herman Munster.

One last thing. In “Herman Munster, Shutterbug,” (Season 2, Episode 4, October 7, 1965) Herman inadvertently snaps a photo of two bandits running out of the Mockingbird Heights Bank. And where do these bank-robbing low-lifes lay low? We see in an establishing shot that they‘re staying at “The Grand”–


–which we of course we know as none other than the Dome.


Dome Image, Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library; postcards, author; everything else courtesy the beneficent glow of the CRT

6 thoughts on “Of Munsters and Bunker Hill”

  1. There is no lower order of architectural history than the “hey, look how much this thing looks like that thing” school. So, with total absence of paper trail or smoking gun, and utterly devoid of legitimate social context, hey, look how much this thing looks like that thing!

    I was taking my weekly dose of Big Orange, and dang if Everett Hall’s 1887 place down on Douglas didn’t remind me of something. I thought it bore a seeming semblance to 1964 Colonial Street, aka 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Whether its designers in 1950 were cruising around for inspiration and found themselves in front of the House of Hall we’ll never know. (Is every post some meticulously researched essay on which quarry produced the dressed ashlar for the Floodat Hotel? It is not.)

    Los Angeles, 1950. Joe and Bob cruise the city, Hall Residence in the near distance.

    Joe: Hey Bob, lookit that one—

    Bob: That’s good, pull over a sec.

    Bob sketches on a cocktail napkin.


    Later that day, in the office. Bob holds up a blueprint.

    Bob: How’s this?

    Joe: Swell. Who lives in these things, anyway?




    As long as I’m irresponsibly positing wildly improbable scenarios, we’ll let this one play out to its logical conclusion:

    Bob: Hey Joe, you want I should Empire-up this tower or oriel window it?

    A woman steps from the shadows.

    Ella Raines: Kefauver told me you mugs’d come here. But you’re not leaving. You’re taking the big dirt nap but plenty. Think you’re so smart, with your asymmetrical facades. Now hand over those blueprints.

    Bob: Put down the gun, Ella. These plans are part of a brave new age. The Larkin’s going down and there’s nothing you and your whole banking cabal can do about it—tell Fuchs and Hubbard I said so.

    Joe: And that goes double, sister. Mac is gonna make Korea glow like a Telechron and if Temple thinks she can retire, tell her we’ve got another agent in the field…and it’s been you all along!

    The poison starts working on Ella. She teeters, drops the gun.

    Bob: Sorry, kid. These’re Bill Goetz’ plans now, and with these babies that baboon of his Hoover will be about as necessary as fretwork spandrels on an Eames outhouse.

    Ella: Mad! You’re all…mad.

    Joe: Getting dark, ain’t it. And don’t worry about Fighting Coast Guard. We had Wild Bill make us up a new one of you.

    Ella sinks to the floor. Bob picks up the phone, dials two numbers.

    Bob: Sesnon? We’ve completed our end. Hidden in the blueprints for those who have the knowledge. Orwell, Grinius, Jolson, Ransom Olds, all dead, dead as the electric car, the Dulles Boys saw to that. You’re the new Weishaupt. You’ve got enough fuel now for a thousand slave worlds. Novo ordo Bunker Hill.

    Bob hangs up the phone. They speak to each other.

    Joe and Bob: What have we done?

    Fade to black.


    Images, BOL and the universalstonecutter’s Munster set.


  2. How dare you ignore the most important part of this evidence – that Arthur Hiller was the director of the Addams’ Family episode in question also directed Love Story, Taking Care of Business, Author Author!, and Carpool, which introduced the world to a young Rachel Leigh Cook, who later went on to star in Josie and the Pussycats, with Tara Reid, who was in Alone in the Dark, which had, uh, monsters in it.
    Okay, that’s the best I could do on short notice.
    Does that mean that the Munsters 2009 (ABC spring replacement) will live in a glass and chrome mini-mall, about to get torn down for…a different kind of glass and chrome mini-mall? Or will they just live in the Brady House? Or maybe the Munster house at Universal, soon to be torn down for an identical Munster house with a ‘grand room’, and an ‘open plan’

    1. I was hoping Tara Reid would actually be in the new Munsters, she some sort of creature half-Marilyn in her blonditude and half-Herman in having been cobbled together in strange and terrible laboratories.

      The honor, by the way, of the new Munsters goes to the Wayans’. Would I kid about such a thing?

      “If we do anything, maybe we’ll do a cameo, but we’re not gonna make The Munsters black all of a sudden,” Wayans laughed. “They’re gonna be green, white people just like they were in the TV show. Their characters are still who they were in the ‘50s. It’s just in modern day.”

      First of all, glad to know the Munsters were from the 50s. Is Wayans referring to the gothic horror of Elizabeth Gaskell? Secondly, I never really felt the warmth of all this “post-racial America" business until I was hit with the green, white people concept.

      I think because the Musters are so “weird” they’ll move into a “loft” and their wacky uncle (a walk on by Marilyn Manson! Relevant!) will visit and stuff. In a Very Special Episode, they’ll tackle Zero Sum Gain economic theory (with a walk on by Sean Penn! Relevant!).

      If they do keep the Munster manse, it will need not just a grand room, but a great room. And more closets! Lots of closets! And a marble kitchen, and lots of diamond-encrusted Lucite furniture. And marble walls! Which can then be sprayed with an ocean of faux-marble paint. Solid gold fixtures! Flatscreens in every bathroom! And everything has to be child-proofed! Think of the children!!! Geez, you’d think I’d been doing this for years. This is going to be the greatest entablature-and-frieze-coated Tuscan palace on the block. I mean, if the bungalow next door could be transformed into a mansarded Regency in the 50s (the 1950s), why not?

      But I digress. What were you saying about Rachel Leigh Cook?

  3. Think of the children, my butt! Clearly, you’re seeing things through today’s molly-coddled political correctness covered in bubble wrap, when both of America’s First Freaky Families of Fright – both the finanically endowed sardonically eccentric Addams Family whose members purposely invert the Colonial puritan abodes containing white pickett fences surrounding lovely flower beds adorning well-manicured lawns by reveling in all things macabre & dismall, meanwhile their museum of a mansion fits them perfectly in its decidedly Old European (Spanish, Italian, French, etc.) Victorian-style outward design that leans into the adjacent family burial plot mired in wild overgrowth which hides the murky swampland the creepy caverns of the house’s foundation slowly sinks into whilst they have furnished its interior with all manner of things gothic & highly-dangerous to muggle (Harry Potter term for non-magical humans) mortals (which the creepy clan defies by enjoying medieval torture devices as childlike toys for the impish children or as something to derive sadomasochistic pleasure from for the adults, as well as having numerous deadly animals, carnivorous marine life, poisonous insects & man-eating plants as their brood’s “pets”) AND Universal Studios’ hard-working middle class Germanic Romanians seeped in Transylvanian lore due to literally being genuine Hollywood monsters trying to adhere to thee s alongside their “Black Sheep” niece/cousin who is more likely a undocument witch of the Samantha Stevens & Sabrina Spellman variety finding herself adopted by her well-intentioned half-wit Frankenstein Monster uncle & his matronly level-headed lady vamp wife whose flowing tendrils of midnight moonlight raven’s hair peppered with streaks of ashen gray cascade down to the floor behind her whilst echoing the beehive hairdo of the hulking cadaver’s easily on edge Bride) of pity due to her striking blond bombshell appearance based upon a certain high-profile Golden Age era starlet that contrasts with the rest of the family’s monster image – are as unconventionally nonconformist as humanly, or vaguely humanly, possible).

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