The New York City Local

Mystery of ‘Cosby house’ explained

Local New York

Jess Wisloski, Yahoo! New York Editor

It may not quite rank with the top questions most plaguing New Yorkers (Why does my subway station always smell? or Where did this cabbie get his license?), but it is without a doubt a long-pondered local mystery.

Where was the Cosby family supposed to be living, anyway?

Sure, fans of the show could probably tell you Brooklyn, or even Brooklyn Heights, but that's where the consensus falls apart.

"Everybody was completely confused about the house," says Geoffrey Owens, who played Cliff Huxtable's endearingly bumbling son-in-law, Elvin. "It was a complete mystery to people what that was all about."

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What's in a name

For starters, the alleged address of Cliff, Clair, Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, Rudy, and later, Olivia, was 10 Stigwood Ave. -- a road name that neither exists in Brooklyn nor in any other New York borough. Among the townhouse-jammed streets in the Heights, there aren't any avenues, and the closest name you can find might be those with tree origins -- like Poplar Street or Willow Place.

Stigwood may have been trying to mimic the names that fill NYC's streets and harken from the original landowners or founders of the city -- Fulton Joralemon, Remsen -- but Stigwood is no such name.

Brooklyn Heights, Greenwich Village or Hollywood?

Those versed in New York celebrity lore are well aware of the fact that the house pictured above -- as photographed by Andrew Otto, a Flickr user -- is actually in Manhattan at 10 St. Luke's Place. New York City tour groups name it as a top destination among visitors to the city, and Flickr's got prints aplenty of the house shown above, with various fans posing on the stoop.

As Owens explained at Sunday's 2011 TV Land Awards, the St. Luke's Place building was just an exterior.

"The house that they used for the show was actually in Greenwich Village, but we were supposed to live in Brooklyn Heights, but we filmed in Queens," he said.

"Meanwhile, most people in the world thought we filmed in Los Angeles," he added, laughing. According to IMDB.com's trivia section, Bill Cosby was adamant about staying in New York, because he disliked working in Hollywood.

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At home in New York

Kaufman-Astoria studios, where the show's sets and cast spent most of their time, isn't in L.A., but in Astoria, Queens, at 34-12 36th St. The photograph below is by Wally Gobetz, another Flickr fan. [Insider tip: Just a block away, at 36-01 35th Ave., at the recently renovated American Museum of the Moving Image, you can find memorable costumes, props and makeup on display that were donated by the show's creators.]

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While the show was already breaking barriers with an all African-American cast and mainstream sitcom storyline, the choice to shoot in New York was a little uncommon, and did present one unique problem.

The first "home" for the show was Midwood, Brooklyn, at NBC's studios at 1268 E. 14th St.

While it was easier for some who took public transit - like Owens ("I just took the subway, I lived in Park Slope," he said,) Phylicia Rashad (Clair,) who had long worked on Broadway, and Malcolm Jamal-Warner, who was raised in Jersey City - it was less so for others. Keisha Knight Pulliam (Rudy) said her family shuttled her to tapings from their Newark home.

The New York audience is a vocal one, and the writers learned just how vocal pretty quickly. At the TV Land Awards Sunday, Cosby said he ad-libbed to repair a scene during the pilot (shown below - starting at 1:00) after an unpredicted response to lines he'd written for Theo, his character's son.

"I wrote it so that people would not clap. In the city — the people clapped! And I didn't expect that. They were on his side! And so I followed with the only thing I could think of - 'That's the dumbest thing I ever heard!'"

In an instant, a classic New York moment became a memorable piece of TV history.
Images:

Top Image - The exterior of the Huxtable's house on the Cosby Show. 10 St. Luke's Place in Greenwich Village. (Flickr/AndyOtto)

Middle Image - Bill Cosby on the set at Kaufman-Astoria Studios in New York in August, 1990. (Photo by Joe McNally/Getty Images)

Bottom Image- Kaufman Astoria studios, exterior (Flickr/WallyG)

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