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The Indiana Home That Inspired A Christmas Story

How did a small-town Indiana home lead to a classic holiday movie that's watched by millions? Let's take a new look at the floor plans of A Christmas Story house.

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Each year, about 40 million people watch A Christmas Story. For many, watching the movie is a holiday tradition, and the infamous scenes can be recited verbatim.

But as building professionals, our team is interested in how the house itself inspired the plot. 

For example, would Ralphie have looked as ridiculous wearing his bunny suit if he was standing in the corridor of a split-level home instead of on the stairs of a Victorian home? Would there have been as much drama while Ralphie was decoding the secret message if the house had a second bathroom and his family wasn’t banging on the door?

A new infographic of A Christmas Story House breaks down the floor plan and maps out the location of some of the most memorable scenes. Test your movie knowledge to see how many movie props you can find. 

a Christmas story house

An Indiana Town That Led to a Classic Holiday Movie

The plot of A Christmas Story is loosely based on author Jean Shepherd’s youth. He grew up in Hammond, IN, and the film is set in the fictional town of Hohman, IN.

There were Indiana references made throughout the movie. For example, the line to see Santa Claus stretches all the way to Terre Haute, and the obscenities shouted by Ralphie’s dad are “still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”

How Does the Author’s Childhood Home Compare to House Used in the Movie?

Shepherd grew up in an Arts and Crafts cottage in the tightly gridded Hessville neighborhood within the city of Hammond. The house used to film the movie was a two-story Victorian in Cleveland, OH.

There are a few key similarities between the Indiana home of Shepherd’s childhood and the Ohio home used to film the movie. Both houses:

  • Were in steel towns with nearby trainyards
  • Had front porches and yards
  • Are located in residential neighborhoods with sidewalks

There are also differences between A Christmas Story house and the home where Shepherd grew up:

  • The house used for the movie was bigger—1792 square feet compared to 1032 square feet 
  • The movie house is older—1895 compared to the 1927 house in Indiana.
  • The house in the movie also has a full basement, compared to the partially finished basement in Indiana. 

The Frozen Metal Flagpole That Changed a Generation of Kids

Many scenes from A Christmas Story are forever embedded into the minds of fans. This is especially true of the scene where Flick gets his tongue stuck to the frozen metal flagpole. Everyone from scientific researchers to schoolyard bullies have weighed in, and it’s hard to imagine not having that scene as a cultural touchpoint. 

That iconic scene is now celebrated at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond. Attached to an actual flagpole in front of the building, there is a life-size bronze statue of Flick with his tongue stuck. It’s a “triple dog dare” that won’t be forgotten. 

Luckily, filming the movie didn’t require an exact recreation of the incident. Instead, special effects teams were able to create a similar on-screen experience without the frozen metal. 

The movie crew used a hollow plastic pipe for the flagpole, and they drilled one small hole into it. Off-camera, they created suction by using a small motor or vacuum cleaner to draw out the air. The negative air pressure of the pipe created suction. Using these lo-tech special effects, the actor could then put his tongue to the faux flagpole to make it seem as though it was stuck to a frozen metal pole. 

The Neighborhood That Inspired A Christmas Story Is Famous For Something Else

Long after Shepherd grew up in Hammond, the Hessville neighborhood where his childhood home is became known for another reason. There was a local flood that quickly turned into a controversy. 

Flood maps show that many homes in the Hessville neighborhood have moderate to high flood risk. In a 1981 incident, excessive rainfall caused the Little Calumet River to overflow, and many residents of Hammond were evacuated. However, the flow of floodwaters passed through two industrial landfills and carried chemical waste into the flooded streets. Contact with the floodwaters caused chemical burns. 

A flood barrier was quickly created in the town to stop the chemical runoff, but the barrier sparked a feud between Hammond and the neighboring town of Gary, IN. 

Today, flooding remains a problem for many homeowners, and residents have a Facebook page to share updates about basement flooding or how their sump pump is working. 

At Indiana Foundation Service, we have helped many homeowners protect their properties through a comprehensive basement waterproofing system. Whether you’re trying to protect the house that inspired A Christmas Story or you’re protecting your real estate investment, a free inspection can help you find out how to safeguard your home.