“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” hit the airwaves 25 years ago today, featuring a youthful Will Smith (before “Men in Black,” before “Ali,” before Jada, Jaden, and Willow) as a kid scooped up from the mean streets of West Philadelphia and sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle, Phil and Vivian Banks, in the tony Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air.
Or so the audience thought. The five-bedroom, five-bathroom, 6,438-square-foot 1937 home featured in the opening credits is in Brentwood. What’s the difference between the two nabes? Not much, says Gary Gold, executive vice president of Hilton & Hyland brokerage in Beverly Hills. Well, there is one difference: “Bel Air is hilly, and Brentwood is flat.”
The producers likely chose this house, Gold says, because of what it communicated: something “upper crust, conservative, WASP-y.”
“It’s a very old-school, established house, very American,” he says. “It’s not some flashy Mediterranean house.”
Don’t think Gucci, he says—this is the Brooks Brothers of L.A. architecture.
“They cast the house,” Gold says, “not the neighborhood.” (“The Beverly Hillbillies” took place in Bel Air, too—it’s a great place for fish-out-of-water stories, apparently.)
We’ve had a little bit of trouble deciding just what kind of architecture that is. So far we’re calling it “L.A.-neoclassical-with-a-touch-of-Colonial-and-a-dash-of-Greek-Revival.” It has that columned rotunda with a widow’s walk, those bottom windows with the pediments … oh, wait, you know what it kinda looks like? The White House. Cue the irony.
While we don’t know much about what’s become of the house in real life (despite its Facebook page), the fate of the Banks’ home was sealed in the series finale. That’s when George and Louise Jefferson—movin’ on up yet again—swooped in and bought the place from the Fresh Prince’s clan.