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Behind the Neighborhood of Make-Believe

With the retirement of the Neighborhood Archive blog a few months ago, many unique and interesting posts were seemingly lost to the depths of the blog. They're still out there, just not easy to find exactly what you're looking for. Among these posts are a handful that I'd consider to be some of my favorites from the Neighborhood Archive so far -- a look behind the scenes at the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Many new readers have discovered the Neighborhood Archive in the time since those original posts from 2011, so I thought it would be appropriate to migrate this fascinating look at Make-Believe here to the site itself in one comprehensive look behind the scenes. Enjoy!

[Note: Since the Fred Rogers Company is no longer based out of the WQED building, the pieces seen in the photographs below are no longer on display.]

The Eiffel Tower

At the time I saw it, Grandpere's Eiffel Tower was slightly dismantled due to the low ceiling. One of the first things I notices, with the Tower as well as many of the other pieces from the Make-Believe set, was that the materials they were made from were nothing you could not go and buy at your local hardware store. Plywood, paint, screws, and nails. Iconic as it is, this was no fancy Hollywood design. I don't say that to suggest that the quality or the creativity behind the set was inferior in any way. In fact, I admire the simplicity of the show even more having seen the basic nature of these Neighborhood landmarks.

Looking at the backside of the tower, I was pleased to find its top stored safely inside. With cords hanging and bare wood exposed, the simplicity of the Tower was evident.


The Castle

Approaching the castle, it seemed a little smaller than I had imagined. Commenting that the castle itself was a little shorter than I had envisioned, I was told that it was set up on a riser when it was on the set which added about another twelve inches to its height.

Of course, most interesting was seeing the side of the castle never shown on camera -- the back side where the puppeteers worked. Again, very basic materials used to create such a detailed piece of the set.




The Factory

There is a lot to look at when it comes to Corney's Rockit factory as it's a very busy place. Easily, my favorite part of the factory is the collection of gears and controls. If you look closely, you'll notice that the controls are simply a collection of random parts that probably looked "technical" at the time this structure was built. Looking even more closely, you'll see that the various settings on one of the dials are written by hand.




The Tree

Seeing the tree for the first time, I was very surprised by its texture and the materials used to make this Neighborhood of Make-Believe center piece. If I understood correctly, the tree is made of canvas which was soaked in a glue and molded to create the bark and leaves.

Did you ever wonder what the inside of the tree looks like? Well, wonder no longer. In the pictures below, you will see the monitor used by Fred Rogers and the other puppeteers in addition to a black curtain covering the openings to X and Henrietta's doors.

Although the back side of the tree was never seen on the program, I appreciate the fact that the back of Henrietta's house is fully decorated.




The Museum-Go-Round

Just as the castle seemed smaller than I had envisioned, the Museum-Go-Round seemed larger. Taking a look over the wall in front of the Museum was quite surreal.



The Clock

My photographs of Daniel's clock are somewhat limited by the fact that the clock is kept behind glass as part of the exhibit at the Fred Rogers Center in Latrobe, PA.


The Studio

How about a look at the studio itself where Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was filmed?

I recently shared the last photo on the Neighborhood Archive Instagram account. It represents a story that many people know, but many people likely do not. Throughout the production of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, the studio floor was painted with the pattern of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe paths. As production of the program ceased, the studio floor was painted black -- all but one small rectangle left as a lasting tribute to Fred Rogers and his Neighborhood.



The Neighborhood of Make-Believe Models

When I hear from readers of the Neighborhood Archive, one of the most common topics mentioned is the set of Neighborhood of Make-Believe models used by Mister Rogers. Well, here they are.

Rather than ramble on about the models that everyone certainly remembers, I'll just let you enjoy the pictures.







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Corner image by Spencer Fruhling. Used with permission.
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