Arts & Entertainment

Help Save House Featured in Blockbuster Movie

Group is trying to restore Bernadette's house in film "Where'd You Go, Bernadette"

Hundreds of thousands of people loved the book, hundreds of thousands more will enjoy the movie. But what fans of this weekend's blockbuster movie release Where'd You Go, Bernadette may not realize is that "Bernadette's" house in the movie needs as much help as her character does.

The movie (based on Maria Semple's 2012 New York Times best-selling book) is the tale of a genius architect, Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett), who puts aside her career to raise her daughter and best friend, Bee, in upscale Seattle. Agoraphobic, prickly, and suffering from social anxiety, Bernadette's eventual disappearance and Bee's attempt to find her are the basis for the plot.

The Hays Mansion in better days.

Much of the movie was shot in locations in Pittsburgh, including the dilapidated, late 19th century Victorian mansion where Bernadette, her husband Elgin, and Bee live. In real life, it's a sprawling, three-story red-brick house called Harden Place, also known as The Hays Mansion, built on a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River in Munhall, outside of Pittsburgh. It makes a cameo in the official trailer:

(Source: YouTube/Annapurna Pictures)

The mansion was set for demolition in 2012, coincidentally the year that Where'd You Go, Bernadette was published. But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports , Munhall town council overturned the demo order and the former owners gifted Harden House to the Abraham Hayes Foundation , a non-profit that is raising money to renovate and preserve it as a historic site. Call it kismet, but the P-G says the movie's production designer searched for 2 1/2 years before he found the house and "literally got a chill down (his) spine" before declaring it perfect for the film.

(An early painting showing the Hays Mansion, upper right, overlooking the Monongahela River)

Hays Foundation's James Deibel, a descendant of the original owner, got to go on set during filming. "They did a tremendous amount of work, and the local artisans and trades were reverent to the facility," Deibel told the P-G in describing how the set was "roughed up" a bit with overgrown vines and peeling wallpaper meant to be a metaphor for Bernadette herself.

Key rooms in the house were set-dressed for the movie.

Check your local theaters if you'd like to see the movie, which has gotten generally good reviews. And if you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it.

If you'd like to help the Harden Place/Hays Mansion renovation effort, click here to donate .

(Images: Abraham Hays Foundation website , movie trailer)

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